The Worm and His Kings, Hailey Piper: A Review
When I first saw this cover on Twitter, I knew I had to request a copy immediately. I'd seen some of my favorite horror reviewers raving about The Possession of Natalie Glasgow (which is scooting up on my TBR after this read), and was excited to dive into this one head first.
In 1990s New York, Monique struggles to survive on the streets, but when her girlfriend Donna goes missing, she's determined to find her. Rumors abound of a monster stalking the women of Freedom Tunnel, and when Monique decides to follow the creature she's convinced has taken Donna, she encounters a world of strange cultists and impossibilities, both mystifying and terrifying.
This is really my first foray into cosmic horror. I would even go so far as to say that I didn't truly understand that term until I read this book--and I'm so glad I read this book.
Imagine if Stephen King had written a layered backstory for the taheen in The Dark Tower and combine it with the first season of The OA. That's the vibe I got from The Worm and His Kings. I literally couldn't put this down, it's that good. Piper's world building and descriptions are vivid, crisp, and electrifying. The writing is insightful without being overly flowery and there are some certifiable quote-gems here that blew me away. Monique as an MC is authentic and complex, and in her self reflections on her journey to find Donna, Piper's storytelling really shines. These were some of my favorite moments, the psychological and physical trauma coming to a head at the crossroads of a multiverse.
And beneath the horror of the underworld setting is an examination of gender and identity that is so, so relevant in a societal context today. Representation and diversity within the genre matter, I can't emphasize this enough, and Piper has given us a wonderful, brutal, beautiful exploration of identity--of questioning that which makes us feel othered, different, cast off, less than, or discriminated against--that I think many readers will not only relate to, but celebrate.
Overall, The Worm and His Kings is a story about acceptance and love, about transcendence and futility, and all the space in between. Out in November, add this to your TBRs and be prepared to devour this more than once. It's a re-reader, for sure, and I can't wait to discuss.
Big thanks to Off Limits Press for sending an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.