In this velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror, Aja encounters a charming vampire who wants to lure her into the woods—just like her missing sister.
No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go missing too.
Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him, but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.
In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.
Content Warning: body and bug horror, death, on-page violence, and racial microaggressions
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ My Direwood Review:
Gothic, gory, and so, so creepy. Direwood deserves a spot on your spooky season TBR!
Catherine Yu comes in with a strong addition to the vampiric horror shelf – plus there are some seriously skin-crawlingly good scenes involving blood-sucking bugs that aren’t for the faint of heart.
After too many novels where the MC is somehow perfect, Aja is a wonderfully imperfect teen who makes some questionable choices and picks battles small and large while trying to find her missing older sister. Yu lets her characters get messy as they deal with threats of the supernatural and close-to-home variety alike.
The pacing once Aja spends the first day in the vampire’s lair/super spooky old church dragged on a bit more than the first and last quarters of the book would suggest. I would have loved more…anything during this time – characterization, plot, growth – something to complement the spooky vibes.
Pick this one up if you like your horror of the bloody and body variety (and add Yu to your must read list!)
Thanks to TBR & Beyond Tours for the digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.