Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED JULY 27TH, 2021
Amity Falls lies alone in God’s Grasp, the only town for miles.
Idyllic and peaceful, the town lives by a set of rules that aim to keep everyone safe. Community takes precedent over all else here, and petty squabbles are often resolved in the public eye.
But when petty squabbles turn into dangerous disagreements, and the forest surrounding Amity Falls teems with unseen dangers, Ellerie Downing begins to question the truth of the town’s humble existence. How far is too far to protect Amity Falls? To protect her family?
And how do you even begin when all it takes is a series of small favors to start great fires?
“Enter not the forest deep. Beyond the Bells, dark fiends keep.”
Just like House of Salt and Sorrows, Erin A. Craig’s debut, Small Favors is loaded with atmosphere. Instead of a salt-drenched gothic seaside, this book takes us to a secluded little town, one built with a great deal of faith and determination. Sometimes, especially early in the book, Amity Falls feels like a breath of fresh summer air, open and light, marching steadily onward to a predetermined beat.
But as the seasons change and winter descends, the claustrophobia reaches its peak. It’s delightful, the way the shifting seasons lend so much character and strength to the story, the way they exacerbate all the problems that lie beneath the plot. For all the wide open fields and endless wilderness, Amity Falls starts to feel cramped, even suffocating. Combine that with character decisions that are made based on limited information, decisions made because they seemed right at the time, and you end up with a book that slowly but surely twines all its troubles together until they crash down on Amity Falls with a furious roar.
There’s a certain amount of subtlety at work here, blending atmosphere and plot together so carefully. It is without a doubt one of Erin A. Craig’s great strengths.
Small Favors isn’t my cup of tea in the romance department, though.
Surely some of you saw this coming. As much as I love the characters, especially when they make flawed decisions and let their emotions get the best of them, I just can’t make myself love the love interest. I’ve seen the mysterious evasive broody white boy too many times to care by now, and those feelings haven’t changed even toward Whitaker Price.
Sure, the mystery surrounding him is well-crafted. You get the sense he holds his cards close to his chest for a reason. And yes, he does treat Ellerie right for the most part instead of belittling her or other things that make me want to boot a love interest to a curve.
But so much of his character is built on dodging questions and telling half-truths, and I’m just not about it. I find it boring, I find it frustrating, I find it distracting from so many other more interesting parts of the book.
Forgive me, friends. The Romance Grinch in me has struck once more. And it’s even angrier because occasionally Ellerie’s feelings for Whitaker seem to eclipse those for her family, especially in the final scenes of the book. All that trauma, all the pieces to pick up, and you’re worried about a boy?
I liked it more when Ellerie had greater concern for the bees.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the bees.
They’re not as front and center as I expected, but they’re still there, buzzing away, and I’m pretty sure most of them are saying to give Small Favors a try! It’s perfect for people who love atmospheric reads, especially when that atmosphere blends fantasy and historical fiction into a tidy little parcel. And for those of you who enjoy horror elements? Never fear, because this book has them in spades.
(Honestly, I’m still unsettled by some of the descriptions. Lots of body horror in particular, folks. Tread lightly if that’s not your cup of tea.)
Thankfully, if any part of Small Favors catches your eye, it flies onto the shelves tomorrow. The wait is already almost over, and you too can hold that very pretty, very unsettling book in your hands. Overall, it’s pretty arguably the bee’s knees. 🐝🐝🐝
CW: animal death, gore, graphic injury, loss of a loved one, miscarriage mention, medical scenes, violence (including gun violence), suicide, body horror