Member Reviews

Rating: 3.98 leaves out of 5
-Characters: 3.75/5
-Cover: 5/5
-Story: 3/5
-Writing: 4/5
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller
-Contemporary: 3/5
-Fantasy: 3/5
-Horror: 3/5
-Mystery: 5/5
-Paranormal: 5/5
-Thriller: 5/5
Type: Ebook
Worth?: Yes

Want to thank Netgalley and publishers for giving me the chance to read this book.

If you like the show From or the movies Blair Witch, As Above So Below, or Grave Encounters I believe you'd enjoy this book. It gave the same foundation as what I listed but with rock climbing and all that. It read very much like that show and movies; it was gory and a bit spooky. Would I like to see this as a top notch B-Rated horror movie? Hell yeah and I hope one day it is!

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This had a good start but unfortunately by the end I wasn’t as excited about it like I was in the beginning. I enjoyed the beginning of how we found out the outcome of the four characters and then go back in time to actually see what they experienced in the woods. I love the setting with it taking place in the woods and how we see creepy, mysterious things slowly begin to happen to the characters. However, by the end I felt the plot got a bit cheesy when it was revealed what was actually happening to the characters and the pacing of the story in certain places got kind of slow and felt like the story was dragging. I also wasn’t interested in the flashback scenes of what happened to previous people out in the woods. It felt like every time I read a flashback scene I was being taken out of the story. I would recommend if you like stories that take place in the woods and contain a bit of horror. I would have just liked to see more of the horror.

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I enjoyed this one! It has a great intro and it hooked me! I just found the characters so annoying and really dumb! Like they're professional climbers but they mess up immediately and they don't even know basic first aid?😂 it took me out of the story. I did like some of the gory scenes but it did start to feel repetitive . If you like survival horror definitely check this one out!

Thanks for the arc, Netgalley!

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Wilderness horror is an absolute terrifying joy and This Wretched Valley delivers the dread I was craving.

Like others, I didn't really connect with any of the characters and that makes the start of the book a little big of a slog. For me personally, kicking things off with animal distress was hard to get through. I think any kind of ~animal horror should be quick & deliberate and Slade running off just made me really anxious. Like Luke, I thought about him being cold and alone in the woods and that's no fun.

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Wow this book!! I love isolation horror, and this truly nailed it. It was so scary, so enthralling, and was hard to put down! Just a really unique story.

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First of all I just want to say that I love the cover. The big skull cliffside with a person dangling? *Chefs kiss*. Now let's get into the nitty gritty.

Was it an interesting story that kept my attention? Yes, I was very intrigued by the premise of four amateur rock climbers dead set on naming a new undiscovered rock. I'm also a huge fan of horror books that have any kind of wilderness as the setting, they tend to creep me out the most.

What I didn't enjoy about this book was how much we had to read through before getting into any sort of action or exciting parts. It had quite a few lulls for me that slowed the story down and made me not excited to pick it back up again. The gore and mysterious elements are what really held my attention and made me want to continue reading. I wasn't a huge, huge fan of the ending but beggars can't be choosers I guess.

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"This Wretched Valley" is an extraordinary journey into the heart of darkness that grips you from the first page and doesn't let go. The author masterfully weaves a tale of suspense, horror, and mystery, set against the backdrop of the enigmatic wilderness. The pacing is perfect, balancing the eerie calm of nature with the heart-pounding fear of the unknown.

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Thank you NetGalley and Quirk Books for an e-ARC in exchanged for my honest review!

Let me preface this by saying that I seem to be on a streak of lackluster books, so I may be more critical than I typically am. I have been obsessed with the Dyatlov pass incident for years, so I was probably overhyping this book in my mind, which also didn't help, but this book was very disappointing to me. Luckily, I do seem to be in the minority though. Spoilers to follow.

Let me start by saying what I did like. The gore was really well done. The scene with the flies/maggots actually made me shiver and will live in my brain rent free. There were some really stand out moments that created great ominous tones such as when Clay really went off the handles and the repetition of the forest foliage really upped the creep factor along with the looping climb moment Dylan experienced. Those moments of questioning what they experienced in their mind versus what was perceived in reality and that psychological torment will always work on me.

Now sadly those didn't make up for my problems with this story. I am a VERY character driven reader and these characters felt EXTREMELY one note. Clay wants to find a new climbing wall, Sylvia likes plants, Dylan likes to climb, and Luke is there with his dog and is Dylan's boyfriend (okay fine Luke has two notes). BUT THAT'S IT. If that is all that the characters are going to be, there is no reason why 50% of this book should've been exposition. By the time the action started to amp up, the story felt dragged and I had no attachments to any of the characters. I also know nothing about climbing, so some more context about some of the terminology would've been great (still no idea what 5.11 means and I don't care enough to research on my own). In the same vein, the long descriptions and detailed moments of Dylan's climbs went above my head. I just glazed over them.

Now for the supernatural factors -- I really really really wish this book leaned way more into an invisible supernatural element and had most of the focus on the characters psychologically struggling. The moments where Clay thought everyone was lying to him and started to turn on everyone were the most terrifying parts of this book. I realize this is purely personal preference and taste, but the minute the ghosts became visible, it got exponentially less effective/creepy for me. I prefer an invisible monster.

This is a super specific gripe, but it also made zero sense to me that after seeing the ghosts and literally witnessing how everyone's' perception is being messed with, why Luke would still not question the reality of Dylan's knife in an animal. You JUST watched your girlfriend get chased by a ghost man, who's house is halfway into a rock... I get he was supposed to be overcome by anger/grief, but it just would've been much more believable if, again, the ghosts weren't in everyone's face.

Overall, there were some notable scenes that were very effective with psychological distress and creepy atmosphere, and the gore was well done, but those moments were way outshine by the lackluster characters. I wanted something different from the supernatural element, and there were a lot of moments that made the story feel like it was dragging. By the end I was just reading to get it done and that's never good.

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A fast-paced, deeply atmospheric and anxiety-inducing debut full of natural horror and terrifying wilderness that really gets under your skin. The writing style is descriptive and strange, it took a moment to get into but creeps up on you, full of oddly written characters and a plot that felt both erratic and clever at once.

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I don't mess with the wilderness that often and this book isn't inspiring me to explore anytime soon. Up and coming climbing sensation Dylan joins her boyfriend Luke at the request of their friend, ambitious grad student Clay and loyal fellow researcher Sylvia on a trip to the Kentucky woods. Dylan hopes she'll make a name for herself scaling a new peak; she has no idea she and her friends will be joining a long history of missing people. Fast-paced, you'll race through the book as if you were trying to escape the hellish valley.

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When I first started this book, I was a little bit disappointed because I didn't love the writing style and some of the actions of the group didn't ring true for me. However, by the time I hit the 50% point, none of that mattered because what followed was an exhilarating and horrific page turner that I absolutely devoured. Does this have the best writing or the best characters? No. Is it utterly compelling? Absolutely!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer is a horror novel about four people, led by Clay, a geologist, and his friend Dylan who is an Instagram famous rock climber, as they trek into the Kentucky wilderness to discover a mysterious new rock for climbing. The structure is interesting as you find out from the start that three bodies were found and that Dylan is still missing and then it flashes back to them going into the woods as you wonder what could have happened to them there. The first half of this novel moves at a fast pace, it slows down a bit around two-thirds of the way through, before picking up again for the final act. This is a very strong debut novel. It is well written and compelling throughout (even with a little bit of a slow down around the middle) and I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves survival horror, especially. Jenny Kiefer is an author to keep a lookout for in the future.

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Really enjoyed this one! So well written loved to hate some of the characters and the gore was written phenomenally! Great recommendation from the queen of horror Rachel Harrison.

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🖤💀| REVIEW: This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer

Releases 16/01/24
Gifted ARC from @netgalley

Summary:

Four ambitious climbers hike into the Kentucky wilderness. Seven months later, three mangled bodies are discovered. Were their deaths simple accidents or the result of something more sinister?

My Thoughts:

Anxiety inducing deju vu nightmares, I consumed this book in 2 sittings. I was surprised to find out it was inspired by the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Many great elements came together in this, survival horror with some fungal and supernatural elements.

Tapered off slightly around the 60 per cent mark for me but it quickly sped back up. Enjoyed the level of gore the pacing the descriptions and the ending will make you feel unsettled.

Great debut!

Would of liked more information about the incident cited somewhere and the history as a complete novice but that’s just personal preference.

Perfect for fans of: The Descent Film, The book Hollow by Mike Salt, The Catacombs by Jeremy Bates.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Quirk Books for providing me with an ARC.

When a group of four colleagues set out to find a new rock climbing destination, an unimaginable, tragic amount of chaos ensues. Months later, three of four bodies are found in horrific states; all that's left of one is a skeleton, another lacks all its organs, and the third has no eyes, ears, tongue, or fingers. What happened to these hikers? And why hasn't the fourth been found yet? Only the valley knows.

This was such a creepy, suspenseful, action-packed read! There were multiple times that I physically cringed from the gore and violence. While I didn't necessarily like any of the characters, I was still on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happened to all of them. I was hooked from the start, and I could not put this book down until the end.

The concept of the valley was terrifying and reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project. As someone who has never gone rock climbing, I still found the climbing parts to be easy to understand as Kiefer does a fantastic job of describing all of the actions and equipment. The one thing the book left me wanting more of was the backstory of the valley itself. Overall, this was such a strong debut and I'll be on the look out for Kiefer's next book!

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A big, big thank you to the kind folks over at Quirk Books and NetGalley for the ARC!

What an adrenaline rush. Jenny Kiefer’s This Wretched Valley is a wild ride that takes off and doesn’t slow down. A take on the Dyatlov Pass incident, we follow four adults and their dog, Slade, into the Kentucky wilderness in the name of scientific research and exploration based on data that reflects an unknown rocky structure. What they don’t expect to find is the confounding valley in which this rockface lies. At every twist and turn, strange things occur, and conditions become bleak rather quickly. What authorities find makes little to no sense, and the explanation is not something anyone can predict.

I want to start by saying that never have I had such a visceral physical reaction while reading a book. A large part of this story centers around the discovery of this mysterious cliff face in a remote part of the Kentucky wilderness that could be established as a new climbing area. Dylan, one of the women on this excursion, is set on climbing this untraversed cliff and marking her own routes for future climbers. Multiple scenes depict her struggles while climbing and the dire circumstances that would occur should she fall. My hands were sweating so much, I had to put the book down multiple times before continuing on. I wish I would have thought to check my heart rate during these scenes given that Kiefer’s writing was so immersive, I felt as though I was about to fall off the cliff myself.

These scenes set the tempo and pace of this story quite high from the outset. Additionally, we know something isn’t quite right based on Slade’s behavior. Normally a mostly docile canine who frequently makes these trips with his owners, he begins to bark, whine, and refuse to enter certain parts of the woods. This of course triggered extreme alarm bells in my mind; the dog almost always knows best. This behavior easily created an air of uncertainty and downright dread from the first few pages, adding to the extreme feel of Dylan’s climbing excursions.

As things progress and instances of the uncanny increase in frequency and intensity, the sense of danger progresses as well. Each member of the party experiences their own misfortunes or witnesses different forms of strange happenings until all things converge towards the end of the novel. Kiefer does an excellent job of writing the wilderness as a character of its own, an entity that has stood the test of time. Through short scenes of flashbacks, we learn that not all has been right with this land for some time. I would even argue that this turns into a possession story of sorts, especially for Dylan who cannot stop thinking about climbing that rock even in the direst of circumstances.

These predatory qualities of the wilderness are not only frightening but downright unhinged at times. I expected a level of gore and violence since this is a horror novel set in the woods, but Kiefer far exceeded my expectations concerning creative, bloody horror. The closest any story has come to this level of environmental violence (in my experience) is Scott Smith’s The Ruins, one of the best horror books of the 2000s. However, one of the most refreshing aspects is the intelligence of those on this journey. Countless horror stories focus on things going wrong in the wilderness through the shortcomings or ill decisions of those who become victims. While some make poor choices in This Wretched Valley, the party of folks on this exploration make rather smart choices, yet still fall prey to the evils at play. A certain level of desperation is established through this use of intelligence which left me wondering just how this was all going to end. Of course, we know this is a tragic ending from the outset, but Kiefer’s storytelling abilities outlining the descent into bloody madness are not something that can be predicted.

Built on an atmosphere of unease, the uncanny, and clear horrors, This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer is a whirlwind of a novel. Her creation of such a dangerous atmosphere sets a clear tone from page one, something that only escalates with each set of events that unfold. The valley in question feels like some form of an overgrown Venus fly trap carefully awaiting the landing of its next prey to devour without hesitance. Absolutely no one’s safety is ensured in such a place as this, a place so wretched.

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I tore through this in about 4 hours! It's a gripping, claustrophobic thriller that doesn't skimp on character development even as it puts its small cast through hell

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This was sadly a DNF at about 10% in, but only because I realized pretty quickly this isn't the type of book for me. However I have a lot of positives even though it isn't for me. The writing was really wonderful and I already felt like I knew the characters really well only being barely into the book. I also loved the setting and it felt very ominous and eerie from the start. The introduction/prologue was so captivating and drew me in immediately.

Sadly I just don't like books similar to The Ruins or overly gory/depressing horror books. People who like survival stories and are okay with more sad horror books where there isn't a happy or uplifting ending, will absolutely love this. This feels like classic horror and I can definitely see this being a really popular horror book this year.

Thank you NetGalley for an e-ARC of the book!

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I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest review. This review is based entirely on my own thoughts and feelings.

Overall rating : 4*
Writing skill : 4*
Plot: 3*
Pace: 4*
Characters: 3*

This was a wild, fever-dream type story, never quite knowing where it was heading. A really great take on the lost in the woods type of book, with added horror and mystery. The pace was really good and the writing excellent. Although I know nothing of hiking and climbing gear, I could picture the scenes and scenarios really clearly. The characters were lacking a bit for me, I couldnt picture what any of them looked like, did we get any descriptions?!
That being said, if you liked The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King, and The Anomaly by Michael Rutger then this will be right up your street.

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I was pretty excited to learn about this book, because while I'm a fan of horror I also used to do some climbing when I was younger, and the idea of both of them put together into one story was exciting. Having just finished this book and having a little time to process it I can admit that I'm still not 100% sure what I read; there were so many elements to it that it felt a little scattered, but I read it quickly and it was definitely interesting enough to hold my attention. I think this would have been really cool as a found footage novel, and while that's not what we got it was still a decent, and certainly unique, read. I think my main issue with this book is that in the end it's somewhat vague. We don't really get a why for the things that happen, and while I can appreciate that this was probably done on purpose I do find it slightly frustrating, because I LIKE a why in my horror novels. Even if it's just "atrocity happened here and now this place is evil", but we don't even get that much just "this place is evil" flat out. So if you're hoping for a reason know going in you're not going to get one. That being said it certainly was an interesting story, and while there are a few elements of it that left me scratching my head overall I think I did enjoy it. Kiefer brought something original to the horror genre in more than one way, and managed to create a sense of unease and horror without being overly violent. I think given a little more time Kiefer could turn into a horror novel star, and I'll certainly be curious to see what she comes up with next. I'll have no problem recommending this title to horror fans who come into my store, and I would love to see this turned into a movie, because I think it could be something good.

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