Wood is a holiday horror novella by new author Dalton Primeaux. The book is about Henry, whose choice in furniture leaves a lot to be desired as the new table that he and his boyfriend Jason bring home from an antique store turns out to be infested by the spirits of long-dead witches. Having been tied to a tree and burned centuries before, the witches now haunt the furniture made from the wood of their pyre, intent on killing all the men who come into contact with the strange pieces of home decor. Bad news for the otherwise happy couple and the guests at their holiday party, who are in for a blood-soaked hell of a time.
In retrospect, it’s a bit puzzling that Wood is billed as a holiday story at all, as there’s only one scene that even makes reference to the fact and neither the antagonists nor the broader setting really have anything to do with the holidays. Sure, a holiday party is used as a vehicle of transmission for the witches’ curse, but the party itself is not atmospheric enough to set it apart from any other gathering and ends abruptly with the majority of the conflict relegated to later scenes. I’m not sure what to make of that, because it could only hurt to pigeonhole the book in a way that is barely applicable.
Let’s get into the good– I really liked the protagonists and supporting characters throughout the novella. Henry has a lot of depth for an 80-page piece of writing, and it’s hard not to like the security guard Reese and neighbor Nicholas, both of whom are endearing despite having relatively small roles. Dalton Primeaux is really good at breathing life into characters in brief descriptions and behaviors and has crafted an inclusive, fun cast.
There are also strong pieces of imagery throughout. Henry’s market is lovingly detailed and lively, it’s a very brief setting but one which feels active and engaging. The deaths are splattery and unpleasant in the best way possible, at the end described down to the basest cruel details. Primeaux is great with imaginative figurative language and there are evocative paragraphs sprinkled throughout.
All that said, Wood is held back by tons of grammatical and fundamental writing errors. It’s essential to keep in mind that independently published authors rarely if ever have access to copy editors, but even with that established, the density of tense issues and awkward, sometimes totally incorrect phrasing is impossible to ignore. I initially took to highlighting apparent errors so that I could double-check them and make sure I wasn’t being ridiculous and nitpicky, but after ten highlights before the halfway mark I gave up trying to catalog. There are sentences that start in past tense and jarringly transition to the present midway through and vice versa, there are commas thrown around unnecessarily, and there’s more than one instance of italics being used conversationally in ways that don’t translate well to the page. I always try to give the benefit of the doubt to pieces like this, but in this case the errors are distracting, at times bordering on frustrating to read. If you want a quick, bloody story with a diverse cast you might enjoy Wood, but if you aren’t able to overlook the above issues it’s pretty tough to recommend.
5 out of 10 Haunted Tables