The Balance - Book Review
The Balance - Kev Harrison (2020)
The Balance epitomises everything that I love about folktale horror. It is a story of balance, order and coming full circle. There are secrets at every corner, an unknown set of scales allowing harmony and control. What happens when humanity grasps for more control, more power? Will the balance tip and allow everything to come crashing down? Time doesn’t exist whilst reading this book. Yes, you can hear it whittling down, each tick getting louder and louder until it beats furiously in your brain, making the tension all that more palpable.
The Balance is a work of art.
This book crept up on me and felt like a sledgehammer to the back of my head. Where to even begin with this story? When Natalya’s 10-year-old brother injures his leg climbing a tree, the fall that breaks his leg isn’t the most worrying part – he has a laceration that will most likely become infected. The local doctor heals the bone to the best of his abilities, but he has no antibiotics or access to any. As the boy’s condition worsens, Natalia is in a bind; allow her brother to succumb to septicaemia and lose his leg or seek help from a shunned member of the community - help that lives deep in the forest.
The Balance is a story that will send goosebumps creeping up your arms. Kev Harrison has nailed his exquisitely torturous method of storytelling, a style which would fit right in on “Tales from the Crypt”. It’s referred to as a retelling of the Slavic folktale of Baba Yaga. I was completely enthralled by the prospect of a gatekeeper, keeping the balance between come a time when you may require her influence.
They say there is always consequences for your actions, and nothing has been truer for the residents of this small Polish village. Don’t expect the secrets to be revealed at a nice steady pace, Harrison likes to give you a swift kick to the genitals where the action is concerned. Once everything has unravelled, it’s like an avalanche in the alps. I won’t lie, I loved everything about it!
The Balance was utter perfection. There was nothing that didn’t work. Characterisation, worldbuilding…gah, just everything *insert chef’s kiss* I particularly enjoyed Natalia’s resilience. Despite her brother’s accident, she manned up and took responsibility, despite her mother being a complete dragon about it. Even though seeking out alternative help would land her in the shit with her mother again, she did what was best for her brother, to hell with the consequences. Harrison is an author that deserves your trust because he can deliver. He lured me in from the start, with the authentic feel of the small village with all its frustrations and strains
The Balance is like nothing you’ve read before, forget it all! Intense, atmospheric, and beautifully told. Harrison is a fabulous teller of stories and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Kev Harrison is a writer of dark fiction and English language teacher from the UK, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. Purchase The Balance here
Reviewed by Yvonne at thecoycaterpillarreads