The Cursed Earth
by D.T. Neal
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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 03 Nov 2022
Welcome to Lynchburg!
Small towns always guard their secrets, and the quaint Pennsylvania tourist town of Lynchburg is no exception. When members of a Pittsburgh gang retreat to the outskirts of the town in an ill-fated bid to hide from the authorities, they—along with a trio of industrial spies, a would-be celebrity chef, and a happy-go-lucky band of unwary festivalgoers—find themselves set upon by the dark forces behind the town’s 50th annual Fungus Festival.
Set deep in the forests and hills of Pennsylvania, THE CURSED EARTH hurls readers headlong into the heart of a cosmic folk horror nightmare in a town ruled by the enigmatic La Signora Grigia—the psychedelic Grey Lady—where gangsters, partygoers, investigators, and sinister cultists clash in the midst of the wild festival atmosphere. Who is the Grey Lady, and can outsiders ever hope to survive for long in Lynchburg?
“THE CURSED EARTH by D.T. Neal both embraces and deconstructs the genre of folk horror. Here, at its core, is a self-aware commentary on a genre with deep roots. It’s also a fantastic ride.
Through four distinct story strands, Neal takes the reader to Lynchburg, PA and its annual mushroom festival. This small town functions around the festival, which boasts 100,000 visitors a year. The people of Lynchburg unashamedly embrace their dependence on mushrooms (with restaurants like The Shroom Room) and their dependence on the divine figure of La Signora Grigia (The Grey Lady). Paganism and dark deeds are afoot, but the crop and the cult are on display for visitors to enjoy, experience, and purchase. Even The Grey Lady is commodified with statuettes of the goddess sold in the hotel gift shop.
Regarding the story, Neal masterfully weaves the strands (recently out of college friends, the undercover agents of a big-pharma baron, organized crime members of The Red Deaths, and a ‘semi-celebrity’ chef out of Philly) into an immersive, bingeable, and rewarding tale. The reader is heavily invested in the cast before the book's 10% mark. The horror of the tale, which is unsettling, creepy, and satisfying, stems from The Grey Lady and Her cult followers, but I’ll leave that pleasure of discovery for your own reading experience.
Neal deconstructs the tropes of folk horror with THE CURSED EARTH. The town of Lynchburg embraces and embellishes the idea of its rural and insular nature. This is the countryside viewed through the lens of a neon Shroom Room sign, self-aware and commercialized, and there’s a message there that landed with me (I won’t force feed it, but I hope the message sticks with other fans of the genre, as well).
THE CURSED EARTH is as an everyday epic and brilliant storytelling.” —Coy Hall, author, Goodreads review
Average rating from 18 members
This was a really fantastic horror novel, I have an allergy to mushrooms so the thought of a mushroom horror novel is terrifying. D.T. Neal has a great writing style and I was invested in what was going on. The plot was what I was hoping for and enjoyed getting to know the characters. The characters felt like real people and it was a great way they handled the situation. I look forward to reading more from D.T. Neal.
"Emily didn’t know what to expect at the Sacred Grove. Part of her thought she should just stay in town, and let it blow over. Hopefully Jerry’s people would be able to develop the stolen samples into something profitable. That should have been enough for her, but it wasn’t. Emily wanted to know what they had in this grove, to learn more. “Melinda’s likely to be there,” Emily said. “I know she will be,” Ash said."
This novel started with a bang, a hint at what was to come, and then took me in another direction before eventually coming full circle.
At just under 500 pages, I think it's fair to say it's a slow-burner, or the first half is at least. I live in rural Wales but have family in Pennsylvania and have attended a country festival there in the past while visiting, so that was the setting my mind depicted as I read.
The book is modern, and yet because of the folk and cult elements, there were times when it felt a bit 70s, a hippy kind of vibe that was bound to happen at a 'shroom' festival. This is not a criticism, in fact I enjoyed that aspect very much. The festival brought the town to life in a multi-sensory way, partly because of the culinary aspects that gave me flashbacks to the TV series, Hannibal.
There are lots of characters to get to know, and several POVs, so you get to see things from more than one perspective which adds depth.
My favourite scenes were those that included La Signora Grigia, the goddess who underpins everything that happens in this town. The imagery here felt original and terrifying.
During the final third, things did not turn out quite as I expected, as one of the main characters (who shall remain nameless since I don't want to give spoilers) comes under the Signora's spell.
I really enjoyed the way it all came together towards the end, and also the twists and turns along the way that had me guessing who really was in control and how much of the supposed cosmic elements were reality. I won't tell you, because that would spoil the fun.
My thanks go to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel.
4 solid stars
This was such a fun strange weird novel. I really enjoyed the multiple POV here, as it helped the story quite a bit. The characters were fun and well developed. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but I actually prefer that in this particular genre. The writing style was great and easy to follow.
I’ll certainly be getting this as a physical book for my personal library.
In a town where they celebrate the fungus festival and mushrooms are their biggest export and their national park is sacred of course they’re going to have guardians when outsiders tried to infiltrate and have no respect for the surrounding area this is when the gray ladies attack. The biggest baddest mafia isn’t even a match for the ladies this book is divided into four different stories all connected to the gray leaving this isn’t a very long book but it’s intelligently written and hora at its best. It’s not just murder for murder sake but those with no morals and they black heart will be taken out first. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it if you love horror with morals you really need to read this book but if you don’t have ethics and morals be careful of the gray lady. I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.
"The Earth as we know it, the ground upon which we stand, the thin crust of life upon it, is rooted in death and decay. Without decay, there would be no life. Without life, there would be no decay. They dance together, life and death, the blessing and the curse together, interchangeable, switching roles as the moment requires it."
What's it about: Shady events that happen during a mushroom festival in a small Pennsylvania town.
What I liked: The story is told from a few different perspectives during the festival which I liked since you get to follow along with the different experiences. I also liked the psychedelic, folk-y small town atmosphere of the novel. And of course the cover is really pretty.
What I didn't like: It's long (just under 500 pages) and a bit of a slow burn because of that. And as much as I liked the different perspectives, I also feel like there was a bit of overlap and there were a few chapters with character exchanges that were a little repetitive.
Would recommend if you like: mushrooms, festivals, supernatural stories, cosmic folk horror or cults.
The Cursed Earth by D. T. Neal releases October 4, 2022
This book is amazing. A folk horror with a cult, an evil clown, black magic, and lots of mushrooms!
D. T. Neal does know quite a bit about mushrooms and it shows in this story. Neal is fantastic with visualizing in words the atmosphere, the scenery, and the characters emotions and actions. Fans of Ronald Malfi will enjoy this book.
In a little town called Lynchburg in Pennsylvania, there is a huge mushroom business. This family owned business shares their success by hosting a yearly Fungus Festival. This year is the 50th anniversary of the festival; and it falls on Friday the 13th. This story follows the story of a chef, a group of college friends, a gang, industrial spies and lots of festival goers.
While it may seem that following so many views of the festival can be difficult to follow, Neal has the skills to make this easy to keep up. I never got confused as to who is who and what their role is in the story.
The narration between all the characters flowed easily and smoothly. I enjoyed the banter and learning about the different types of mushrooms.
The action scenes were also easy to follow. I found myself so engrossed and speed reading because I was so involved in what happens to each character. I came to care about what happens to all of the people in this story.
Overall, I found this book immersive, engaging, and fun. I would definitely put this book as one of the best books I have read in 2022.
Thank you #NetGalley and #NosetouchPress for sending me this ebook to read and review. #TheCursedEarth
It's a quite weird and entertaining story, an unusual horror that I enjoyed even if it's a bit slow during the first part.
There's cosmic and folk horror, ancient gods, a fungi festival, and some 70s vibes.
It's well written, the world building is fascinating, and I enjoyed it.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
I enjoyed this folk horror book a lot. This author was new to me. So glad I picked this one out. Creepy story. Funny in parts.
This is my first foray into folk horror and it has started me down a whole rabbit hole of what is now my favorite genre.
Interweaving multiple storylines that take place at an annual mushroom festival in rural Pennsylvania, this manages to be funny, moody, and creepy all at the same time.
A fun, if long, carnival ride that I will definitely take again in the future when I want the story equivalent of a lava lamp and some classic rock.
by D.T. Neal
**** ( 4 stars)
I loved this cosmic, psychedlic, folk horror Mushroom centric Manifesto, everything about this novel is mushroom related.
Set in Lynchburg Pennsylvania; a group of gangsters who have been extorting mushroom farmers attempting to hide from authority, partygoers, mushroom growers and fanatics, and an aspiring celebrity chef, all among those heading to the 50th Annual Fungus Festival, in a town ruled by the psychedelic Grey lady-La Signora Grigia. The festival quickly turns into a struggle for survival, and to identify who the Signora really is.
Sharp, witty, comedic and fun, this is well written and held my attention throughout the novel. The characters are relatable and well developed and its easy to feel for them. The way he incorporated mushrooms into everything is amazing. I'd definately read more by D.T. Neal
Thanks to Netgalley and Nosetouch Press for sending this ARC e-book for review.
D.T. Neal knows folk horror well. He knows how small towns guard their secrets. Like tightly sealed oysters concealing pearls, they must be pried open to expose the treasure within. So too is it with The Cursed Earth, maybe his best work to date. An absolute psychedelic mix of horror and thriller that pulls no punches and leaves no stone unturned in a cosmic and folk horror mashup.
Welcome to Lynchburg, Pennsylvania. Inside the rolling hills and dark forests is a town ruled by the mysterious La Signora Grigia. The novel starts off strong, setting the tone for what’s to come, depicting a rural setting where anything can happen. Gangsters, cults, an evil clown, and black magic collide with the power of mushrooms and an emotional core that keeps the pages turning.
At the 50th anniversary of the annual Fungus Festival, a veritable cornucopia of characters all bring their unique plotlines to intersect in Lynchburg. There are a lot of characters in this novel and it can sometimes feel a touch cramped. But Neal is a skilled enough storyteller that he is able to deftly balance a variety of different people and keep the story exciting.
The prose is smooth, with Neal getting into different heads and storylines with ease. Each character is well crafted and three-dimensional, whether they are rowdy young adults looking for fun or corporate spies out to steal fungi secrets for their masters.
The reader will be impressed by how much The Cursed Earth feels like an absolute, mushroom-induced trip. Neal paints vivid, sometimes bizarre pictures of the scenery, showcasing a land that is to be respected. Violating that is at the peril of the interlopers, and figuring out just what will happen to everyone involved is a joy.