Horns - Joe Hill The improbably named Ignatius Martin Perrish wakes one morning to find that there’s a pair of horns growing from his skull. After some internal debate regarding the integrity of his sanity and attempting to convince himself that his new protrusions are some kind of hallucination brought on by an illness he didn’t know he had, Ig eventually discovers that his flashy new headgear comes with an added bonus: everyone he encounters feels compelled to share their darkest, most disturbing thoughts openly with him. Which is rather handy, because it offers Ig the opportunity to use his newfound devil-powers to track down the person who raped and murdered his girlfriend and childhood sweetheart, Merrin Williams, the previous year - the perpetrator of which was never found thanks to an evidence bungle, although the whole town seems quite convinced that Ig did it and somehow managed to worm his way out of being convicted. Ig’s noble quest to bring Merrin’s killer to justice takes him down a progressively dark path, of which there seems little chance of return; the horns compelling him to uncover the twisted, hidden secrets of his hometown, his friends, and even his own family.

If that sounds like a good premise for a story to you, then good news: it is. Horns takes a quirky, slightly offbeat idea and weaves a unique and interesting tale from the thread. The pace is gradual and relaxed, but I don’t believe I ever felt it was going too slowly - this is a very character-driven drama, and Hill takes his time to develop his principle players as much as possible, so that when the pieces start to fall together we really get to feel the emotional impact.

Oh yes: feels. Plenty of. This is a good thing, trust me.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Hill really hooked me through the limbic system with this one. Ig is one of the good guys at heart, and you can’t help but root for him by the end. Also, I don’t remember hating a villain in a story quite as much as this for quite some time. So, yes, I cared. I cared rather deeply by the end, and I think that’s definitely a sign of an author with a grasp for what works. It worked for me, at least. There’s humour too, and Hill is certainly unafraid to have some fun with, as well as at the expense of, his characters.

Still, I actually do have a criticism. It’s not all rose petals, bath salts and kissing pictures of Joe Hill, I’m afraid. The ending - though I’m not going to go so far as to say it sucked - it just didn’t particularly sit right with me. I’m not entirely opposed to happy endings or anything, but this one was maaaaybe one step too close to something you’d find in one of those life-affirming made-for-TV movies. *pulls face*

There’s a big lesson or two to take away from this one: live for the moment; don’t let go of the things you know you love; a whole bunch of stuff about bottling up matters of the heart instead of saying what you really feel - you know how it is, but it’s been a few weeks since I read the book now, and I’ll be damned if I can remember all the details.

Hah. Damned.

Do I get horns?