Little Eve

Written by Catriona Ward
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

In the early 1900s a small “family” takes possession of Altnaharra Castle, a mess of ruins on an island off the western coast of Scotland. This group, or perhaps we should call them a cult, consists of the leader, John, called “Uncle” by the children; the women, Alice and Nora: and the children: Dinah, Eve, Elizabeth, and Abel. They worship a snake that lives in the sea and will one day come to destroy and cleanse the world. John can become one with the snake and thus needs more food than the others, and they all must obey his commands. The women and children are underfed, underclothed, overworked, tortured, regularly bitten by an adder, drugged, and thoroughly brainwashed.

The story is told in alternating chapters, before and after a sacrifice to the adder, by two of the children. The reader learns early on that all but one cult member dies in that way. Which is the survivor? And should the reader trust the narrators, mentally ill and confused as they are? Little Eve won the British Fantasy Award for Best Horror novel, and it is well deserved. This is a gripping, white-knuckle, totally creepy story that will keep you guessing.

Ward’s prose is gorgeous; her descriptions of the sea and the storms, the hallucinations, and imprisonment, are utterly amazing. Her characters and character development are frightfully realistic. If you enjoy horror, you will love this novel.