In this contemporary fantasy, the grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist finds himself slipping inexorably into the supernatural world that consumed his subject.
Failed father, failed husband, and failed scholar, Charles Hayden hopes to put his life back together with a new project: a biography of Caedmon Hollow, the long-dead author of a legendary Victorian children’s book, In the Night Wood, and forebear of his wife, Erin. Deep in mourning from the loss of their young daughter, they pack up their American lives, Erin gives up her legal practice, and the couple settles in Hollow’s remote Yorkshire mansion.
In the neighboring village, Charles meets a woman he might have loved, a child who could have been his own daughter, and the ghost of a self he hoped to bury. Erin, paralyzed by her grief, immerses herself in pills and painting images of a horned terror in the woods.
In the primeval forest surrounding Caedmon Hollow’s ancestral home, an ancient power is stirring, a long-forgotten king who haunts the Haydens’ dreams. And every morning the fringe of darkling trees presses closer.
Soon enough, Charles and Erin will venture into the night wood.
Soon enough, they’ll learn that the darkness under the trees is but a shadow of the darkness that waits inside us all.
Bailey (The Subterranean Season) infuses his eighth novel with a sinister forboding that excellently villainizes its bucolic English setting. American couple Charles and Erin Hayden arrive at the estate of Victorian writer Caedmon Hollow to research Hollow's reclusive and tragic life. Carrying the grief of their daughter Lissa's death and their failing marriage, the Haydens throw themselves into their respective obsessions: for Charles, uncovering Hollow's dark secrets, and for Erin, taking prescription pills and sketching their daughter's likeness. Erin's depression is her only character trait, rendering her two-dimensional in comparison to Charles. Apparitions of Lissa and a horned figure haunt the perimeter of the forest behind the house, recalling the story of a child sacrificed to the Horned King in the pages of Hollow's "In the Night Wood." With the discovery of a cipher and the help of a local historian who has a daughter uncannily similar to his own, Charles realizes the horrors of "In the Night Wood" are closer to fact than fiction. Bailey's eerie prose centers readers firmly and successfully in his seductive and frightening night wood.