STYGIAN by Santino Hassell
Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.
Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.
Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.
4.5 Beautifully Creepy Stars
I have a friend. This friend and I used to have long talks about paranormal stuff and fantastic, creepy creatures. We used to discuss books, and movies based on books. At one point we got to Dracula and Interview With The Vampire. We were both fascinated by the mythical powers of those creatures, and by the sensuality that they exude. There is simply nothing that compares to a sensuous vampire. The look in their eyes when they go after their prey. The art of seduction that they work on the person they want to… Well… Eat. The brilliant, yet scary mind-fuck.
Then there’s the other element to this book… A rock band.
Ingrained in my heart and my mind there is this thing that I have for musicians. I instinctively look for books with bands (more than solo singers). The reason I do this, and why I feel so drawn to this is because I’ve always been endlessly fascinated by the dynamics of a band.. – Here lays the reason why I’ve read so many band/rock star bios. There is something beautifully complex about having four, five, or six people going on the road, on their way to a gig. The energy that they feel when they song write. The giving themselves to music in a rehearsal, and exposing themselves through something they love and live for. There is also something incredibly intimate about having to share a room, and even a fucking bathroom. There is something incredibly twisted, yet, fascinating about the way they usually live behind closed doors – Especially when they are together. Just imagine: they live each other, breathe each other, see each other, feel each other.. It’s intense.
Relationships are complex by default. Put four people together for a month – four people that have to eat, sleep, shit, and even fuck in the same space and you’ll see that complexity at its most. Notice I’m not saying at its best, but at its most. Send those four people to an old house in the middle of nowhere to live there for the whole summer, and get ready for a beautiful disaster.
This book is one of the very few that, in my humble opinion, captures the beautiful complexity of becoming a strange representation of a family -for lack of a better word- on the road. The co-dependence that is almost impossible to avoid when you live so close to each other.
The prose is beautiful, the characters are strong and well defined. The couples that we see here, either complement each other or serve as a shield for when the other is about to be hit. They are strong in a very unique way. The descriptions of places, people, and emotions, are nicely delivered, as well.
The romance of the story centers around Kennedy and Jeremy, but don’t be fooled… While this is the central romance, the book also focuses on all four band members, and that’s what makes this so fascinating. In the end they are all connected, because in the end they are four parts of the same whole. But let’s focus on Kennedy and Jeremy for a bit.
Jeremy is the newest guy to the band. He’s been living with a huge grief for a long time: the loss of his brother. He feels like he doesn’t belong there, and is still trying to find his place. He lives on edge, and more than once he thinks of walking out. On top of that he’s had this huge crush on one of his bandmates, Kennedy.
Kennedy is this bulky, super hot guy, covered in tattoos. He speaks his mind, and I think he’s very intuitive. In a way, Kennedy is the one who sort of holds the band together. His strong personality and character leaves no room for fuckery. For Kennedy, there is something about the new kid in the band… He’s been reluctant to act on it, but then, when a local guy from the town they are staying in awakens all kinds of jealousy and possessiveness in Kennedy, that reluctance kinda goes flushed into the toilet. See, I love a jealous guy. I love the possessive as long as it’s not… Bordering psycho. This is, for me, the perfect amount of jealousy.
The chemistry between Kennedy and Jeremy is pretty much undeniable. The sexual tension is palpable, and their dynamic is complex and fascinating. There’s a sensual element to their relationship even before they act on it. And once they act on it…. Boy, is it darn worth it. I mean, this is Hassell’s… Expect sexy. Expect short lines so charged with emotion that will make you shiver, and make your knees go weak.
The paranormal element is fantastic. Like I said before, I have a thing for vampires and their psyche. I loved how this side story merged with the primary one, which would be the band. The setting – the woods, the dark, the practically abandoned house, the secret passages, the odd neighbors, the lake… It was all wonderful. It was a special way of creepy. I don’t think this was scary. It was just creepy in a very intense way.
The focus on the other two band members gave me enough to make me more curious about them. While I adored Jeremy, Kennedy, and Quince, my favorite was Watts. There is something rather forbidden about him. Like a voice in my head that screams that he’s an asshole and I should run away to the speed of light, but my heart just bleeds for him. He’s so fucked up. So desperate to stop feeling, to stop remembering, to stop the pain, that he hurts himself, and in the way, he hurts the others. He’s not an easy person. He comes with too much and too heavy baggage, but he is too real. I truly hope he gets his own full length book someday. I’d totally read that.
I loved how the stories of the members were somewhat intertwined. It added an interesting twist to the narrative, and made me want to know more about them.
There was only one thing that didn’t bode well with me… The ending. By the ending I don’t mean the cut and run part, because that was actually spot on. What I mean is: what was left unsaid, and rather blurry. I have way too many questions about that and I can only hope that they’ll be answered at some point. As for the main couple of the story – we do get a nice, well rounded HFN.
Do I rec this? Hell yeah! I think this story proves that Hassell can write pretty much anything he wants and do it brilliantly, and leaving his very particular trademark In his books.
There are a few books that I would recommend for PNR newbies, and this one is one of them.
PS. I’m sorry if I’m too vague about some aspects of the book. I tried very hard not to spoil anyone.. Hence, the vagueness… Bwahahaha
AMAZON | BARNS AND NOBLE | DREAMSPINNER PRESS | ARE