The Tenth Girl is a taut, atmospheric horror that draws you into its cold, decaying embrace, only to drop you off a cliff you never saw coming.
Rating: 3.75 Stars
I was sent a copy of this Advance Reader Copy by the publisher per my request. The decision to review this book and all opinions expressed are completely my own and not influenced in any way. Thank you to the publisher for sending me the ARC.
The Tenth Girl
Author: Sara Faring
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Synopsis: Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a Gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.
At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.
Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.
One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.
If you are looking for a deeply atmospheric horror novel to drag you into the spooky season of Autumn, look no further than The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring. Set in the southern most point of South America, The Tenth Girl is rich with Patagonian mythology and a constantly growing sense of dread that permeates the reader as the pages turn. As someone who doesn’t read horror often, I decided after about 100 pages that this was one I needed to read during the daylight hours.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was the atmosphere. The first section I read was during a lunch break at work and when I closed the book at the end of my break, I was shocked to find myself in my cubicle. Where was the gloomy, creepy house I had just been in? Why was I suddenly warm, instead of feeling the cold and dread that had settled into my bones? Faring crafts such intense scenes that one cannot help but falling straight into them. On top of the atmosphere, there was the sense of dread that followed me throughout most of the book. Faring expertly wove her words to create a growing sense of horror at what was happening De Vaccaro School. From the opening prologue, straight until the plot twist, I was enraptured by the slowly unfolding mystery.
And the plot twist is where we get into tricky territory. Was it unique? Yes, mostly. Was it satisfying? Not entirely. I think the twist brings up some very good ideas and issues that should be discussed, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down after reading damn near 400 pages expecting one thing and getting something 100% different. The twist also makes light of some of the more serious topics that are discussed in the book (see trigger warnings below). This book will definitely be polarizing in matters of plot twists and triggers.
Let’s also talk bout the length of this book: 464 pages. Look, as an epic fantasy reader, I know how to manage reading books of 1000+ pages with no big deal. But because this novel is told from two different viewpoints, we get A LOT of overlap. There are certain times where the EXACT same scene is told, just from the other narrator’s viewpoint. That got old real quick, but did eventually taper out as the novel progressed. Even though I enjoyed the slow build of the mystery, at times it felt like a bit of a slog.
Typically, I try to give a breakdown of sorts for characters in a review but discussing the characters in depth brings me straight into spoiler territory. I will say that Mavi was a phenomenal character and I enjoyed her POV chapters the most. Some of the side characters fell into tropey horror story characterizations, but not necessarily in a way that bothered me. Some characters could have used a little more fleshing out, but there is quite a cast of characters in this novel and too much building would have gotten clunky.
From reading The Tenth Girl I feel like we can come to expect interesting things from Faring in the future. I haven’t read a horror story in ages and I’m glad I got to experience this one.
Trigger Warnings: child abuse, discussion of statutory rape, pedophilia, death of a child, and violence in general (especially towards women). This is a dark book and my list of triggers is probably not complete for everyone.