Member Reviews

Horror is not a genre I usually read, but I wanted to give this one a try since Quirk Books is based in Philly and I live near there. I love to support smaller pubs and especially debut novelists like Kiefer.

Four people head into the Kentucky woods to do some research about the terrain. One, Dylan, has just started a lucrative deal with a climbing company. She's hoping to scale a cliff and show climbing devotees what she's made of.

The horror amps up as the quartet start experiencing some odd sights and experiences in the woods. As their emotions heighten and fear reigns, the capability of humans to hurt others--and the land to get revenge--take center stage.

As far as horror goes, this book absolutely scared me. The build up in tension and the vivid descriptions of the horrific things the characters experienced and saw definitely kept me engaged. The supernatural thread of the story was intriguing, but I felt like we weren't given a "reason" for why what was happening happened. With this storyline not tied to reality or a relatable emotion/historical issue, it didn't resonate as much with me as it could have. I was scared but wasn't invested in the horror.

Still, if you're a fan of "wilderness horror," this is absolutely a book for you. Kiefer's ability to scare--and describe scenes of horror--is strong.

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3.5 stars.
- the horror/gore. really vivid descriptions that were great!
- solid survival horror!

- the POVs. there were a few too many for me & I don't feel like the characters had distinct voices that were easy to tell apart. I especially didn't enjoy the POVs from the past.
- the cursed land trope

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This was a really interesting take on the Dyatlov Pass incident. Great supernatural elements and some nice grisly bits as well.

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This one was tough to get into and I don't know if it's because with translations somethings are lost or that they were changed to better fit the English language, but I couldn't get into it.

I could predict what was going to happen very early on, and I just didn't enjoy the book the way I thought I would. Overall the story is not bad but it wasn't my cup of tea.

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The synopsis made me think the book would unravel the mystery of what happened to these climbers, but that's not what this gave. You're with the climbers the whole time so there's no mystery. You see what happens to them as it happens.

I'd categorize this more as a variation on the final girl trope where the woods are the attacker. The horror is very of the popping, cracking, oozing, festering, swelling, bloating, squirting, stinking, rotting, souring variety. There is minimal character development and character relationships are flat. A couple of the characters were geology/botany(?) students working on research, but the science and nature writing is nearly non-existent.

Having just finished Dead Mountain, a non-fiction about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, I was pretty disappointed by this as an 'inspired by' work of fiction. Too much gore, not enough science, and my intrigue died by the 20% mark.

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I'm not normally a horror person, but this took place in the woods of Kentucky, so I thought I'd try it. Four people go into the woods of Kentucky, and 3 bodies are found a month later. What happened, and where is the fourth body? Two members of the party are graduate students at the University of Kentucky, and the last two are a rock climber influencer and her boyfriend. The book comes from all four points of view, as well as the past of the haunted forest. Very gorey, and I could have used less of that. I also wanted more of an explanation of why this all was happening. But otherwise very intriguing. Thanks to Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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THIS WRETCHED VALLEY [Release January 16, 2024] is an immensely, delightfully, engrossing Supernatural Folk Horror set in rural Kentucky. On the surface a gentle account of four young persons, two of whom are graduate students, one a budding influencer-rock climber, plus her dog-devoted boyfriend/assistant, this novel is surprising both in its depth and in its breadth. Suspension of disbelief is immediate, compelling, and continuing, as the hapless quintet (four humans plus an Australian Shepherd) find themselves inextricably trapped in an increasingly unreal and impossible "reality." Each time I tried to get a handle on what's happening, the author delivers yet another revelation of intensity and terror. Also, although this tale is set in March in rural Kentucky in 2019, the group supplied with cell phones and GPS, the relevances and parallels to the February 1959 Dyatlov Pass Tragedy in the Ural Mountains of Russia are amazingly pertinent.

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*2.75 stars
I am an avid horror/thriller reader, and especially love when a book includes things that are like a science-expedition kind of deal. I found the book description to be rather enthralling, and I absolutely love this cover. This book started off strong to me, but quickly fell flat. While the writing is technically good, save for a few blips, I just found the story to be very repetitive. The characters were very one note and, aside from the dog, I didn't care for any of them. They continually ran through the cycle of running away and "oh no, we're stuck! What do we do?!" and it became very irritating very quickly. While I enjoyed the flashbacks that provided more context for the wretched valley, I felt they were placed so randomly that it completely took you out of the story. Aside from all of this, I thought the gore moments were done well, producing very disturbing images in my head as I read (like I said, the writing is very good). All in all, this isn't a bad book; it just clearly did not work well for me and I likely will forget much about it by next week.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quirk Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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4.75 It's a good idea and plot. For some reason I just couldn't connect with the characters. Would make an awesome movie.

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Unfortunately, this book was not for me. If you like ghostly horror stories, it might be just what you're looking for, but that's not my cup of tea unfortunately. I went in thinking it was more of a straightforward suspense with horror elements and that's not what it turned out to be.

I didn't connect with the characters, and the plot had too many unanswered questions for me. There was a lot about this book that reminded me of The Ruins--the feeling of foreboding and everyone warning them away from the area, and the supernatural events that happen when they are there. It's possible that this book might be better as a movie, because the drama seems more suited to that type of medium.

Side note: I spent the entire book worried about the dog, and we don't know what happened to the dog. Why was the dog even included? To make readers more anxious?

If you like ghost horror stories, this book might be for you. If not, then I suggest reading one of the many intriguing non-fiction books about the Dyatlov Pass incident.

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I absolutely don’t read enough horror with settings in nature and This Wretched Valley scratched an itch I didn’t realize I had. This book is great for fans of books similar to The Ruins where readers know that their main characters are going to get trapped somewhere, but the how, the why, and the what will happen to them is completely unknown.

This Wretched Valley was the perfect mix of suspense and twistiness while also delivering on the examination of the psychological impact the situation has on our cast of characters. Speaking of which, the cast is great. Kiefer gives readers four unique characters who each get the chance to tell the story from their perspective. I loved the insider look into what each of them was experiencing and their observations about how those with them were reacting to what was happening. Mix this with an isolated and largely unknown setting and you’re in for a book you just can’t put down.

I highly recommend walking into this one as blindly as possible and following along with the cast as they try to find out what’s happening around them.

A huge thank you to Quirk Books for my gifted copy!

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For those that are interested in the curious cases that have an endless amount of conspiracy theories and/or love outdoor sports this book is for you.

Four people go on a climbing expedition, all go missing, and then 3 are found dead. The 3 bodies that are found are in such condition that medical professionals and investigators are both baffled. After years there is still no explanation and the fourth person has not been found. These four people are unaware of their fate as they excitedly hike into the woods in the spring of 2019. Clay is a geology student who is working on his PhD. When he finds a cliff in the Kentucky woods that is untouched he knows it’s the perfect location for his thesis. He gets together a fellow student, Sylvia, to be his research assistant, Dylan, an old friend that just got signed with a professional climbing company, and Luke, Dylan’s boyfriend and belayer (which is basically the person that holds the rope at the bottom of the cliff for the climber for those like me that don’t know climbing lingo). The trip starts out with everyone excited and eager and soon turns into a nightmare.

This was inspired by the Dyatlov Pass incident which is endlessly fascinating to me. Unlike the Dyatlov Pass incident while the professionals and the public in the book never learn what happened to these four people us as the readers get the full, terrifying account. I loved Jenny Kiefer’s writing. I am not an outdoorsy sportsman person and have never been climbing indoors or outdoors so I’m completely unaware of any aspect of the sport. But I ended up not only knowing so much more about climbing that I did before starting the book I felt like I actually climbed a mountain. The descriptions are amazing that you can tell the author has climbing experience. While it was amazing (and a bit scary) reading about the climbing excursion this also meant that the other more sinister events of the book are very detailed as well. It was easy to feel like I was losing my mind while reading.

By the end of the book I felt like some parts were a little bit overdone in the sense they felt like they dragged on for too long. However, overall, it is a great story and a great read. Highly recommend.

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What a book! I usually don't read a lot of gore and horror, so I was hesitant to pick this one up, but I am glad I did. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire book. It is definitely not for those with weak stomachs. I will definitely be recommending this to our patrons!

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A heart-pounding novel with never a dull moment.

Four young adults venture in to the woods of Kentucky, to explore and climb a seemingly undiscovered rock that one of them has spotted from an airplane. It becomes immediately apparent that this is no typical wilderness, and that getting out is much harder than getting in.

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Inspired by the Dyatlov Pass incident, This Wretched Valley is for fans of The Ruins and the Blair Witch Project. This horror debut will make you think twice about going off and exploring the unknown……

This Wretched Valley starts with the discovery of three bodies in the Kentucky wilderness - their varying states of decay and the strange conditions of their remains sparking wild conspiracy theories about what happened to these three young campers… and what happened to their missing fourth member of their expedition, who has seemingly vanished without a trace.

Months before this grisly discovery, four friends adventured into the Kentucky wilderness to map out what they think is an undiscovered rock formation. Clay and Silva were geology students, collecting data for their graduate research. Dylan and Luke wanted to film the climb up the untouched cliff face and cement Dylan’s status as a rising star in the rock climbing influencer community. What happened to them was a mystery…until now.

Opening with the discovery of (most) of the ill-fated party, and then traveling back in time to see their misadventures, This Wretched Valley had me hooked from the very first line. There’s a sense of dread that pervades throughout the novel, you know going into the book the fate of most of our main characters, and even when things are going well for them you feel helpless, forced to sit back and watch their plans, their dreams, and their very lives unravel in front of you.

Reader beware - strong body horror throughout. The description of the body horror is graphic and gruesome; this elevates the stakes and the horror of a survival story, but readers sensitive to body injury might want to steer clear of this story. Even though we do know WHAT happens, which might take some of the suspense away from the unfolding events, the HOW of everything will keep the reader engaged.

This Wretched Valley is a strong debut, and I look forward to checking out whatever Kiefer writes next.

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Four young people go into a strange forest to study a rock despite being warned by locals about the place. In the first pages you already learn that things did not go well on the expedition, and these kinds of beginnings ask a lot from the story to keep you interested to learn how things went down. I think Jenny Kiefer managed wonderfully in this. All the characters were well developed individuals and the mystery of the place they were in was crafted well. This book was tense and reminded me a lot of another great horror book The Ruins by Scott Smith. This Wretched Valley is still distinctly its own story.

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Thank you to NetGally and Quirk Books for the ARC of this book!

You know a horror book is going to be good when the people at the beginning keep making all the classic horror movie blunders. Not listening to locals, not heeding signs, and most of all not paying attention when any animal with you is freaked out and doesn't want to go. If you dog barks at something you can't see in the woods: run.

A group of four people and their dog set out on a scientific/ climbing trip into the Kentucky wilderness after the geologist friend discovers an untouched cliff face. They set out to research the area and for Dylan to be the first person to climb it. They bring along their dog, who really doesn't want to go into the woods, and continue to ignore all the strange things until they are camped in the valley by the rock wall. Then disaster happens and they discover they can't actually leave the valley. Are the woods haunted? Is it all in their heads? The book keeps you guessing until the climax. Quite a bit of gore, especially at the end. Vaguely reminds me of The Descent.

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This book is recommended for people who enjoy gore and other gross stuff. This isn't my thing, but the test is well-written and I see what there is to like about it. However I can't help but think that this is what you get for camping. No spooky woods for me, thank you.

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The absolute thrill that went through me when I was approved for this ARC was outrageous. I love horror, and this book seemed right up my alley. Thanks to @netgalley and @quirkbooks for the opportunity!
This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer follows a group of four — Dylan, her boyfriend Luke, Sylvia, and Clay — as they embark on a research project in the Kentucky wilderness. Clay and Sylvia are working towards their PhDs, and the study revolves around a huge rock wall in an untouched forest. Dylan, a newly-sponsored climber, is excited to tag along and help them develop the climbs on the wall along with Luke. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse almost immediately.
Inspired by the Dyatlov Pass incident (one of my personal favorite WTFs) and written by an experienced climber, this book is both an accurate glimpse into the world of climbing and an utterly dread-filled ride. I was sucked in literally from the first sentence. “There’s something in the woods” is my favorite flavor of horror, and This Wretched Valley gives us a whole meal. 4★

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This was a really fast paced and enjoyable read. The terror throughout was well done and I had a great time.

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