Stephen Gregory did such an amazing job with this story. It is written so atmospherically and beautifully that the words just stick to you, making the scenes so tangible, and leaving you with all the feels. To give you just a taste, “There dawned one of those crisp December mornings in the mountains, when the air is full of the scent of the fir trees, so cold that it scalds the nostrils, humming with sunlight under a sky of unblemished blue.” I mean just wow. The writing almost makes you forget of some very uncomfortable scenes throughout the book, like the infamous bathtub scene which had me doing a double-take and saying “Did I just read that correctly?!” And yep, yes I did. To say that it was uncomfortable is really underplaying it, it was flat out gross and wrong!!! There were other scenes that had me cringing and upset along the way, and some that had me crying. I still don’t understand how Archie had me crying when it was just so vile and evil, I guess that is just another testament of the incredible writing. Upon finishing THE CORMORANT I was left with a huge sense of sadness and despair which honestly I can’t tell if it was just from all the gloomy and winter-y weather throughout the book or if it was because of the occurrences. Overall, it was enjoyable, albeit messed up, little read. 4.5/5
Oh by the way if someone were to ever offer me a cottage in exchange for caring for a pet I will flat out say NO THANK YOU!!! And I suggest you do the same!
You never know diving into a book with an obvious title if its a metaphor, a riddle or perhaps just the obvious. The Cormorant. I’ll be honest I knew nothing of this type of bird, its origin, its purpose not why someone would find the need to write about it. But then again, one can use anything as inspiration for horror.
This story certainly centers around its title. A bird given through inheritance by means of a contingency. Sad, lonely Uncle Ian takes a liking to his nephew, his wife Ann and their son, Harry. He decides to pass off what little possessions he has to them with the stipulation his pet cormorant must be treated like family and cared for. Easy, right?
From the very beginning with a descriptive such as the cormorant was a Heathcliff, a Rasputin, a Dracula, you know there is something sinister afoot. This short poetic journey takes us into a very quick dark turn of events as the family learns to live with Archie; the wild bird. And I’m doing so we began to see the family take on a very dark and intimate relationship with each other. And by intimate may I ask, why for ten love of all that is right and well in this world did we need the bathtub scene. For what it’s worth, the story is worthwhile for its unsettling imagery and unusual plot. I can assure you I’ll never look at a cormorant in the wild the same and perhaps I’ll never quite look at a bathtub the same either. Innocence has been bathed in tainted bubbles blood-soaked feathers. ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
A young couple inherits a beautiful cottage in a Welsh town from their uncle. The catch? In order to keep the cottage, they must care for a cormorant that was the pet of the previous owner. They soon discover that the bird may be more than a regular bird. It may be a disgusting and angry creature that makes them question how much they love their life in the cottage and how much they are willing to risk for it.
I had heard that this book had A SCENE. One that was talked about by everyone that read this book. Hearing that wasn’t offputting, it was a challenge. It was also one of the main reasons I wanted to read it. So some of the Night Worms reviewers and I got together and did a huge buddy read to figure out what this scene and book were all about.
I have to start out by saying that THIS WRITING IS KILLER. It is absolutely beautiful. It builds this really creepy atmosphere and makes everything feel beautiful and haunted. The description is vivid and rich in detail. Stephen Gregory really sets every scene very carefully and gets a great impact in doing so. That’s why I think the Welsh town the couple moved to probably had cobblestone and the pub was more than likely a white stone building with a dark wooden door and wooden shutters. He never said any of those things were there, but he builds the scene so well that your imagination takes over and you can expand it in your mind.
Digging into this book, I have to talk about the characters because I feel that they had some issues. I didn’t like any of them. Not the kid. Not the bird. Not even the neighbors who are in the book for all of about four seconds. I didn’t think their relationships made any sense and their motives were all over the place. Even their conversations seemed forced and uptight. I mean, I love my husband, but no way am I kneeling in front of him with my dressing robe undone and kissing his palms. WHAT? That’s what I mean. They have this almost fairy tale type of love, that makes them seem fake and contrived.
The wife, Ann is entirely too forgiving. There are some things that happened with her husband that I can’t imagine any self-respecting woman being as laid back about them as she was. The son, Harry, seemed like a little tiny sociopath. I know you can’t diagnose it in children, but the kid probably should have been seeing some kind of child psychologist. The parents recognize that this kid is doing weird things and they literally do nothing about it. Then you have our main character and his dive into insanity. I am not sure that this man knows what priorities are and I really don’t understand his obsession with his wife’s neck. And honestly, none of these people should own any type of pet. Not even a pet rock. They can’t handle it.
Now, let’s chat for a minute about THE SCENE. Was it disturbing? YES. Was I uncomfortable? Absolutely. Was I really all that shocked? Not really. I honestly thought something MUCH worse was going to happen. Also, this SCENE really added absolutely nothing to this book. It didn’t play into the plot, and it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It really felt like it was just added for shock value. It was letting us know these people are absolute garbage people like we hadn’t figured that out by the time we got to this SCENE.
I should also add a trigger warning because there is some animal abuse in this book. If you couldn’t guess by what I have already said, these people are terrible at keeping an animal, even one that had no business being a pet in the first place. I mean, this bird is a class A jerk. A real butt head. But, what can one expect from a WILD ANIMAL? And how can these people be so angry at a wild bird for acting like a WILD BIRD? It is rather funny, that when recapping this book, I barely think about the bird for which the book is named. While you’re reading, the bird plays this massive role in the story. It’s the test. It is the reason we are all reading this book. But when you recap, the bird doesn’t really need to be spoken about in the least. You just talk about the characters and their relationships and their insanity.
I do love the overall idea of this book, despite the negatives I have already pointed out. Would you still live your dream life, if you had to take care of a wild animal that tried your sanity and relationship with loved ones? How much are you willing to lose and what are you willing to do to keep that charmed life you’ve been given?
I tried to guess the ending a few times throughout the book. While I was on the right track, I didn’t guess the actual ending. I don’t think anyone could have, and because there is a bit of the ending that is left for the reader to interpret, no one ever really can. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I felt as though it flopped. I wanted more. The entire book is a spiral of chaos and bird shit and pyromaniac toddlers and I thought the ending could have been bigger and crazier.
For these reasons, this is a 3 star read for me. I would recommend this book to anyone who digs a weird, slow-burning atmospheric horror. It’s on the shorter side, so it’s a pretty quick read. It’s most unsettling and an overall enjoyable book. The beautiful writing style will have you turning pages faster than you can complain about the characters being actual human dumpster fires.
"A young family receives a surprise when old Uncle Ian dies and leaves them a cottage in north Wales. For Ian’s nephew and his wife Ann, it seems a stroke of incredible good fortune, enabling them to leave their life in the city for newfound freedom in the remote seaside cottage. There’s just one catch. Uncle Ian’s will has an unusual condition: the couple must care for his pet cormorant or forfeit the bequest. The will’s provision seems harmless enough at first, but when their young son Harry develops a strange fascination for the increasingly sinister and malevolent bird, they soon find that Uncle Ian’s gift may not be a blessing, but a curse."
I enjoyed the beginning of this book quite a bit. I thought the writing was atmospheric and exciting. The Cormorant reads like a classic both in its style and tone. I've seen it compared to Hitchcock and Poe, and I can see this comparison. The first third or so of the book did a fine job of establishing the premise, the characters, and the underlying tension of the strange situation. However, that's as good as it got. The rest of the book was quite tedious, and the characters never connected with me. Archie, the titular cormorant, was supposed to be a scary and ominous part of the story. However, he was just a bird, doing bird things, being cared for by people that are DRAMATICALLY unqualified to have a pet.
I had high expectations for this book, and when I heard the whispers of a particularly disturbing scene, I knew I needed to know what the deal was. The scene in question was indeed distressing, but ultimately gratuitous. Perhaps if the scene had been a catalyst for further plot or character development, I could have understood its significance to the story. It certainly wasn't stomach-turning entertainment, in the way I've come to appreciate from this genre. Between that scene and the extensive animal abuse that occurred towards the end of the book, this one was not for me.
Matt is a middle school math teacher. He's originally from Kentucky but currently lives in Arkansas with his beautiful wife and 2-year-old son. In addition to reading dark fiction, he also enjoys board games and Disney World.
The Cormorant is a gripping tale and beautifully written, a triumph for the horror fiction genre.
I’m going to keep this review short but sweet, just like the book.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into when I agreed to read this book. My friends over at Night Worms kept talking about “that scene”, a weird and unforgettable part of the story. Well, after all the chatter about “that scene” I couldn’t help but read the book and find out what “that scene” was all about. Six of us over at the Night Worms crew got together to buddy read this novella and I must say, the story caught me off guard. I kind of thought the story wasn’t going to be any good and we were just reading it for “that scene”. Well, guess what!? This book is awesome. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it. Stephen Gregory put together a beautifully written tale that was altogether dark, ominous, gripping, and suspenseful. I read a few other reviews that stated that the author had this amazing ability to put the reader in each scene with great clarity. I agree completely but not only that, I was able to connect with the characters on a deeper level because of this as well. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was “that scene”. What a weird thing to toss into this story. It gives me chills but not in a good way. So if you're like me and you’re curious about “that scene” well you’re in for a delightful surprise because this is a great book and “that scene” is well… weird… but read for yourself.
I give The Cormorant by Stephen Gregory 4/5 stars. A lot of reviews compared the writing style of the author to Poe and although I’m not exactly sure about that, I can say with certainty that this tale is exceptionally well written. I maintained a deep connection with the characters while being firmly planted in each scene. I went into this read with very low expectations, desperately wanting to get to “that scene”. By the end, “that scene” was far from my thoughts. My mind was narrowed in on the extraordinary writing and gripping story by an amazingly talented writer.
My name's Andrew. I'm a husband and father who loves to read all things dark, thrilling, mysterious, and suspenseful. I didn't always enjoy reading but have been nothing short of obsessed over the last five or so years. The obsession has lead to writing and so here I am fighting for time to read and write while trying to work a full-time job and satisfy my family’s needs (#1 priority).