Written by Vincent Stoia
E-book 362 pages
Review by Elizabeth Reuter
Boston college student Sean Yang is invited by his mother’s new husband to go to China on an archeological dig. Sean has been avoiding the new paternal figure in his life, and in an attempt to bring his family together, agrees. Unfortunately the dig site is Jin Village, home to Mother Chen, a witch from a family much more twisted than Sean’s. Misanthropic and power-hungry, she’s spent decades destroying whole settlements…and now the archaeology team is headed straight for her.
Jin Village begins beautifully with great dialogue, a steady pace, and relatable characters. The backdrop is awesome; China has so much history, and such rich folklore, which is so rarely explored in genre fiction. It’s also well written, and the plot keeps moving while our threat rises gradually in the background. When the angry Mother Chen appears and we learn her history, I found that I couldn’t wait to see what happened.
However, once the buildup stops and the threats come out into the open, Jin Village begins to lag. I never felt scared for our heroes, even when they were meant to be in danger. As the not particularly scary threats took over the book, I stopped caring about the heroes themselves.
The final showdown between our heroes and Mother Chen comes so suddenly that I actually skipped back a page to see if I’d missed something. It’s woefully anti-climactic.
In my opinion the best part of Jin Village are the chapters that go back in time, telling us about Mother Chen, her supporting cast, and the world they lived in. Author Stoia exhibits a rare talent in building fantasy worlds and introducing characters that are unique, yet relatable (I dare anyone reading to try and not like Hong, a cheerful and child-loving father trying to help Sean). These “short stories” woven within the novel drew me in regardless of what happened in the main plot.
Despite its flaws, I recommend Jin Village to horror readers looking for something different. You don’t have to know anything about China to enjoy it, and might come out wanting to know more.