“Horns” Book Review, Matt’s Take

Matt Dwyer, Senior Staff Writer

Horns by Joe Hill starts off with the main character, twenty-six year old Ignatius Perris, looking in the mirror and realizing he has horns protruding from his head, having grown in overnight. This jarring hook undeniably succeeded in piquing my interest. Although, as the book progressed, it did nothing more than this-pique my interest. I was rarely ever fully engaged into a scene of suspense or any other sensation. Instead the scenes took their time in accelerating, as did the pace of the book in general. Halfway through, Ignatius has taken little decisive action regarding his horns, the book clogged with flashbacks that got in the way of the plot. However, with ominous foreshadowing throughout and some chilling scenes, Horns eventually succeeded in drawing me in.

Something this book did well from the very beginning was make promises. To commit readers to their novels, good authors introduce a mystery, and promise answers, or present an unfolding dilemma to promise conflict. “Promising” these things engages the reader. Hill does it well, creating suspense: he intertwines the mystery of the murder of Ig’s girlfriend into the exposition, promising to unravel the ambiguity of the twisted tragedy and reveal Ig’s supposed role in it. He also presents the dilemma of Ig’s horns that promises later conflict through foreshadowing supernatural presence.
It’s just that the promises took a little too long to be fulfilled. The problem that Ig has horns growing out the side of his head was not addressed for a long period of time, delayed when a chunk of the book was devoted to flashbacks of his childhood. Although they served as independent plots and provided context for the mystery, the flashbacks taking up an entire section of the book almost derailed the plot from its original course. They put too much time between the makings of the promises and, not necessarily their coming to fruition, but something that expanded on them, or served to be a reminder of them.

Although not a huge fan of the plot, I really like the characters. Ig’s horns have a property that compels other people to tell him their darkest secrets and their coveted opinions, including their opinion on him. What people say under the influence of the horns provides a portal into their characters and gives them depth. Also, receiving the truth from everyone he talks to takes a toll on Ig, and prompts his character to develop and become independent, considering the horns prevent him from having a normal conversation with anyone. Aside from the horns and their effect, some characters displayed insight that really struck me and made me reflect on my own life.

Overall, Horns had scenes that were engaging and full of tension, but they usually concluded with the projection of the foreboding atmosphere that permeated the entire book. It lacked a sense of imminent conflict. Instead, the conflict always seemed to be foreshadowed, a little too far off to engage me until the end. I give this book three out of five stars.