"Victoria (What Hides Within Book 2)" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Bloodshot Books

Written by Jason Parent
2018, 204 pages, Fiction
Released on December 20th, 2018


I’m usually suspicious of books which are part of a series but we’re told can also be read as standalone novels. Victoria, the sort of sequel to What Hides Within, has been advertised in such a way. I had not read the predecessor, so embarked upon Victoria without knowing too much about it except for the fact it features a rather unpleasant spider. I was delighted to find out this genuinely is a standalone story and could be enjoyed without knowing much about the previous book, and neither is it hindered by information dumping chunks of backstory from What Hides Within.
The original was initially released in 2012 and was republished last year by Bloodshot Books, who have also released Victoria. Jason Parent’s career has been developing nicely since this debut seven years ago, writing fast-paced horror and thrillers comparable to Hunter Shea or Michael Patrick Hicks. After reading Victoria, I am sorely tempted to backtrack and read What Lies Within, as the author drops tasty hints about what went down without necessarily spoiling it.
The connection between the two books is a simple one; the main character, 16-year-old Victoria Menard, is the niece of Clive, who is the star of book one and the previous host of the spider Chester, who nested inside his head. Victoria cleverly does not give much away about What Hides Within and all we need to know is that eight years before Victoria begins, Chester switched hosts, moving from uncle to niece.   
Coming in at 204 pages, I’m not sure whether to classify Victoria a novel or a novella; whichever it is, it certainly crams a lot of plot, excitement, characters and twists into those pages. It is also written in such a way that we’re kept hanging on the origins of Chester the spider. We’re given plenty of enticing crumbs and tidbits, but I am sure Parent is saving much of the juicier arachnid stuff for the next instalment. Or at least I hope he is. 
This very entertaining and fast-paced novel is seen from three distinct points of view; Victoria, Chester and Armani. Victoria lives with a group of thieves, who pick-pocket and con tourists in Italy, where most of the plot takes place. Victoria, however, has her own agenda, which is interconnected with the long-term, but shrouded, dodgy agenda of the spider. The voice of Chester is excellent and distinct from that of the teenager she inhabits; the creature is also full of secrets and before long you’ll be wondering what happened to her previous hosts. Nothing nice, that’s for sure. The third narrative belongs to Armani, who works for a secret department within the Vatican which has been hunting the spider. Before long the plots merge together into a game of cat and mouse between Victoria and Armani, with the spider plotting in the background.
Jason Parent does a fine job of creating a sympathetic and believable teenage girl on the brink of adulthood by cross-pollinating a coming-of-age story with thriller and horror. The spider has been in her head for many years and so her perspectives are slightly warped, but sympathetically so, with Chester influencing her actions in a complex love/hate relationship. Who knows, there are strong hints the third instalment may even move more towards science fiction. Even if you’re never read Dan Brown, the Vatican element of the story is going to have you thinking of that type of conspiracy thriller, Jason Parent even mentions it himself in the novel! 
Victoria is not deep, flash or complex, instead it’s a very cleverly written page turner written to the strengths of an author who has the ability to merrily dance around the horror genre. Jason Parent is a great story-teller and the quality of his writing is on the up with Victoria, which is loaded with convincing characters, a fast-moving plot with nice twists, whilst revealing just enough about Chester to have the readers hungry for more. 


Overall: fourstars Cover
Buy from Amazon US

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
Other articles by this writer


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