Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Jennifer Thorne’s Diavola Casts a Chill on the Tuscan Countryside

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Jennifer Thorne returns to horror with her upcoming novel Diavola. This is one vacation you do not want to take. Well, probably. I’d be interested. A haunted villa in Tuscany? Sign me up! But Anna is not having a good time. And if I was with her family.. I wouldn’t be either. If you want to figure out which is scarier, The Pace Family or La Dama Bianca, pick this up when it releases from Tor Nightfire on March 26, 2024.

The family dynamics here would be almost unreadable if Anna wasn’t so much fun. Because wow, I would not have lasted a day. It is apparent immediately that Anna is the black sheep of her family. Even her twin brother can’t be relied on for support—not with a boyfriend in tow who is determined to see her ruin the vacation. Really, the only person on her side is her niece. Which only makes things worse for both of them.

So, things in Villa Taccola are tense. Which is just great if you’re a ghost. Who thinks of a haunting when you have plenty of reasons to be on edge? But some things can’t be explained by family trauma. And plenty of those things happen in these pages. This was a well-done haunting. The tension ramps well, breaks at the right points, and lingers where it should. The reactions feel believable, too, which is always a delight to see.

And by believable, I don’t mean rational. Would you be rational in a haunted house? One of my favorite things in horror is when the circumstances that make it horror intensify everything around it. Those family dynamics? Throw in genuine fear, lack of sleep, and the unexplainable. Diavola is a powder keg—and Anna is the powder, fuse, and match. And La Dama Bianca is going to push everyone toward that explosion.

Diavola by Jennifer Thorne Cover
Diavola by Jennifer Thorne Cover

Anna as a main character was the best choice for this story. Her voice is hilarious, quick, and scathing. I can totally see her family doesn’t like her, and I am one hundred percent against their assessment. Anna rocks. I would be friends with Anna. Her family could seriously benefit from some perspective. Also, of note: Anna is important to have as the narrator because she is the only one who speaks Italian.

The Italian aspect was so much fun for me. I am Italian, I studied the language in college, and I’ve been working on the DuoLingo course off and on for a while. This book motivated me to pick it back up, and my first return lesson was describing a scary hotel. Not concerning at all. But the language aspect is so important to the story. It effectively isolates Anna even further. Yes, they need her. She’s their translator. But it also means she bears the weight of responsibility. And she is–unfortunately–the only one who can understand what is going on.

If it wasn’t clear by now, I loved this book. The suspense genuinely got to me. The ending was one I didn’t see coming, but absolutely did. You know those endings when all the pieces slot into place as you’re reading? It was immensely satisfying. All the family drama was an emotional gut punch at times, and if you’ve been reading my reviews for any time at all you know that’s always worth extra points with me. Most importantly, though: I had so much fun. Diavola was a reading experience I plan to revisit, preferably in Italy. 

Photo courtesy of Tor Nightfire

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