* Currently this book is only out in Dutch. Next year this book will be published in English. Unfortunately this also seems to mean the setting will change for the English version which I personally think is a shame.
Wie er wordt geboren is gedoemd er tot zijn dood te blijven. Wie er zich vestigt komt er nooit meer weg. Het ogenschijnlijk pittoreske dorpje Beek is in de greep van de Wylerheks, een vrouw uit de zeventiende eeuw wier ogen en mond zijn dichtgenaaid. Zwijgend loopt ze door de straten en dringt ze de huizen binnen, nachtenlang staat ze aan je bed. Iedereen weet dat haar ogen nooit mogen worden geopend.
Er wordt alles aan gedaan om haar aanwezigheid geheim te houden. Maar als een groep jongeren besluit viral te gaan met de heks, laat ze de moderne samenleving langzaam maar zeker afglijden naar middeleeuwse praktijken. En dan is de wraak van de Wylerheks nog niet eens begonnen…
English Synopsis *
A small town in the Netherlands, called Beek, is in the hold of the Wyler witch. The Wyler witch is a woman who was prosecuted for being a witch in the seventeenth century and whose mouth and eyes were sowed shut. She walks through their streets, visits them at home. The towns people fear her. Everyone knows her eyes and mouth should never be opened for fear of her vengeance.
Beek does everything it can to keep their secret from the rest of the Netherlands through high-tech surveilance and a virtual quarantine. A small group of teenage boys however do not agree with this and plot to expose the Wylerwitch on the internet. But they don’t realize which events their actions will trigger…
* Freely translated
Since I don’t think the synopsis prepares you well I will start with this. Trigger warnings for this book: rape, mentions of physical abuse, suicide, language, zoophilia.
As seen above this is not a book that will be for everyone. But don’t let it scare you away either. It is a horror and fantasy thriller. The plot I found very interesting and it grabbed me reasonably early on. I think this might have had to do with the first scene that made me say out loud, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I got hooked. I wanted to know what was happening. The start of the second part of the book got me to shed a tear. Yes, this is the second book in my whole life that made me cry! There had been such a build-up and I think emotions exploded. Unfortunately after that the book lost me a little. I think the author pushed it too far right after that. I felt a little disjointed with the book from then on. The horror was strong at the end. However more so than that I think the book is about us as a society and how we can act inhuman to others and forget our own morals when we think we are under attack. When we are scared. And that is important to realize in these days.
It is set in a small town in the Netherlands, the country where I happen to live. There is so much familiarity. Small references, Dutch sayings. I just felt so connected to the town even though I’ve never been there. It was just like other Dutch towns, like one I grew up in. It made it easy to connect to the setting and have it pictured in my head, more so than I have with other books.
I do have some other issues besides the ending with it. There were some scenes from the camera that were written mostly in present tense. As most of the book is written in past tense, this bothered me slightly. I understand why he choose to do this, but it jolted me out the story a little at the start and that was a shame.
Next to that there is a focus on the youth. Now there was a long period where the Dutch youths would use cancer as a curse word. Today society reacts to it stronger and I think it is used less now. But this is often used in the book by the youths. I have to be honest that it bothered me. I don’t think the book needed it. There were enough shock factors in the book already. And they could have cursed without using cancer.
As for the characters, I thought I wasn’t emotionally invested in them up until I had the second part of the book and I cried because of what happened to two of them. It does take a while to get in to them. Grim is a character that I had issues with because he had weird fantasies. Later on in the book it connected with me that this was more than likely caused by influence from the Wyler witch without him realizing himself and it became normal to him to have them.
I am conflicted about this book. There are parts of it that I loved, but there are other parts of it that disgusted me. But then this is a horror/thriller and isn’t that a bit the point? If you read this, be prepared for the book to be stuck in your head for a while.