Review: MARY: THE SUMMONING by Hillary Monahan

Since I finished the rewrite on my manuscript last week, I’ve been devouring books like a woman starving. So far, one of my absolute favorites is Hillary Monahan’s Mary: The Summoning. Can we just talk about the cover for a hot minute here?

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Creepy mirror face, wax dripping like blood (Or actual blood). I love it. But wait, there’s more! I can’t stand to read books with the jacket on (because I’ll mess them up and weep forever). Having a blank hardcover is fun, but Mary goes a bit deeper.

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Oh yeah, she’s printed on the hardcover too. I really love that they did this. Two great covers and it’s like a mini jump-scare before you even GET to the story. Props to you, art department.

The story itself is a new take on a very old legend. We all know that if you go into the dark bathroom and say “Bloody Mary” three times in the mirror, Mary appears to scratch your eyes out/haunt you/steal your soul, etc. Monahan takes it one step further:

There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them–Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna–must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: “Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY.” A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though–at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary’s wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary–and Jess–before it’s too late?

I’m a sucker for research and ritual. The fact that Jess tweaks their circle each time to summon Mary for different results is awesome. Let me tell you, Monahan pulls no punches. From the second Mary escapes that mirror, it is non-stop full-throttle scary. And Mary has rules, which is absolutely killer. All shiny surfaces are Mary’s domain. I’ve never been dared to summon Bloody Mary and now I never, ever, will. EVER. Let me tell you guys, I have never been more keenly aware of how many reflective surfaces are in my home.

There are 49 in my bedroom alone. Damn gallery walls.

If research and ritual weren’t enough, Monahan also uses history. Well, urban legend history. Her Mary is Mary Worth, one of the popular origins for the legend. Many claim she was a witch, and Monahan truly brings her to life through letters written from Mary to her sister, Constance. The way she ties it all together is perfection. The flaw I found is that book ended. However, I know she’s busy drafting Mary 2, so I can wait.

I finished the book in two days and it only took me that long because I had to go to work. It’s well-written, beautifully crafted, and pretty scary. It’s got that old school ghost story vibe I loved so much in Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box.

If you guys love a solid and creeptastic horror story, I’d check out Mary: The Summoning as fast as your little feet can get you to a bookstore, library, or eReader.

Don’t read it at night.

Stay away from the mirrors.

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