Enter not the forest deep. Beyond the bells, the dark fiends keep.
Summer is slowly winding down. The changing of the seasons brings with it the chill of autumn, ripe with spooky tales and creepy crawlies. Who doesn’t like a twisted tale that makes you glance over your shoulder?
Small Favors is the perfect book to read during the tail-end of summer, when nights are starting to become longer and colder. This is author Erin A. Craig’s second novel. Her first book, House of Salt and Sorrows, was a NYT bestseller and one of my personal favorite reads this year. You can check out that review here.
Here’s the synopsis for Small Favors:
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
Craig draws upon the same elements in Small Favors that made House of Salt and Sorrows such a riveting success: creepy vibes, strangers with dark secrets, and a young girl trying to save her family from destruction.
One of the main themes in the book is the sense of community, of family, and how painful it can be when the bonds that hold us all together begin to fray. It also touches on the chaos that inevitably comes after a community implodes into itself, when people who were once viewed as friends are suddenly regarded upon as strangers, or worse: enemies with a familiar face.
The pace of the storytelling and drama increases gradually throughout the book, the tension mounting and building up until the very last page. There is mystery upon mystery, and the town seems to be the epicenter of it all. The tension in the story slowly becomes more taut as the narrative progresses, until everything becomes so tightly woven that something has to give. Which, of course, it eventually does. The last arc of the book, where everything gets resolved, are complete page-turners. I don’t recommend starting the final few chapters just before bed, unless you don’t have to wake up early the next day!
What I also appreciated about Small Favors is that not all of the characters are redeemable. I genuinely believe this is a strength to Craig’s storytelling. Not everyone can have a happily ever after. And frankly, not everyone deserves to be forgiven for their terrible sins and choices.
Overall, the book has just the right amount of claustrophobia that is reminiscent of stories with spooky vibes and undercurrents of mystery and horror. As things begin to crumble around Ellerie and her family, the feeling of being stuck with nowhere to go becomes stronger.
If you enjoy stories with a single point-of-view, that are slow-burning and heavily lean into unsolved mysteries and family secrets, then I highly recommend this book. Hopefully Craig writes another one soon!