"Daphne" Book Review

Written by Zach Rosenberg

Published by Del Rey

daphne josh malerman poster large

Written by Josh Malerman
2022, 272 pages, Fiction
Released on September 20, 2022

Review:

Daphne.

Don't think about Daphne or she'll come for you. That is the truth Kit Lamb knows and the grim reality of Samhatton, Michigan. A quaint town, a lovely small town like any other, with a terrifying urban legend based on a seven-foot-tall woman named Daphne. But this is a horror novel and of course, Daphne is real.

And she's angry.

And she's coming.

Let me preface with personal details, for I feel it's only fair after Josh Malerman pours out so much of himself upon the page for the readers: I suffer from chronic anxiety, which Malerman himself discusses in the afterword with the reveal of a particularly harrowing scene in the novel happened to him. It is impossible to look at Kit and her struggles and not read the difficulties in a killer who comes when you think about them as metaphorical to some capacity.

Daphne is a brutally efficient killer and I found myself captivated by the passing sequences. When Daphne shows up, she is no waifish Yurei to slip from a television and leave a twisted corpse in her wake. She is a brutal, towering monster who seizes her prey and makes nothing but anarchy of them. And as a perfect metaphor for anxiety, you cannot just stop thinking of her. You cannot simply banish it from your mind so easily when the thoughts are on you. How do you stop something like this?

Can you? That is the question Malerman is trying to answer while spinning a brilliant horror yarn throughout. Daphne is all at once a slasher novel and so much more. You have a cast, many of who exist to be slaughtered by Daphne. You have what the film Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon would term an Ahab in an investigating detective who functions as the secondary protagonist. You have Kit, whose relationship with basketball is that of a parishioner to an oracle, asking questions of the omniscient rim that are answered by her landing baskets.

The steady reveal of Daphne in life, her deeds and the reasons for the urban legend left me feeling genuine horror. Other writers are more visceral, more brutal and perhaps more poetic, but there are none who can rival Malerman for deftness. Each of his novels is a trip through the surreal and the emotional, his style unmistakable. So to is it with Daphne, where the narration's delicate tones both exacerbate and belie the brutality unfolding.

And I stress again, Daphne is terrifying. There is no saving the victim when she closes in. She does not speak, for her actions speak for her. You cannot plead, you cannot run. One memorable sequence is her stalking a girl in her own home, where her mother cannot see Daphne and is of no help, reminiscent of scenes from the film It Follows and its invisible monster.

Malerman refers to this novel not as a love letter to anxiety but as a correspondence. It shows. The wrathful specter is summoned by thoughts about her, however inadvertent. We're left on the edges of our seats all the while.

Terrific novel.

Grades:

Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
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Buy from Amazon UK.
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Zach Rosenberg
Staff Reviewer
Zach Rosenberg is a fantasy and horror writer living in Florida. He appreciates the ocean, wildlife and his love of literature was constantly nurtured growing up where he practically lived in the libraries, reading every horror and fantasy book he could get his hands on. His print debut short story "The Teeth Of the Deeps" is featured in the fifth short story collection from Dead Sea Press.
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