Imagine that you’re in the woods and you suddenly find that you’re alone—completely alone. No human voices, no sound of birds, no scurrying of creatures through the woods. Nothing. Absolute silence, when there should be sound. Your gut tells you that something is terribly wrong and the true horror of possibly being alone with a monster begins to creep over you. Can you feel the pounding of your heart and smell the fear sweat? The author KH Koehler gives us that feeling of impending horror with the line:
I’m always game for a good reading scare, especially psychological ones. You know, the ones that you read where your imagination gets a solid, scary workout. The type of books that make you afraid to get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water? Those are the horror stories I crave and THE SENTRY by author KH Koehler scarily delivers.
This excellent tale of horror begins in the Lacawac Wildlife Management Area. Think of any area favored by hikers, families who enjoy camping, and anyone who sees the great outdoors as a safe and fun place, where they can escape from their daily mundane lives, and you’re entering Lacawac.
Here, in this peaceful setting, you will find shadowy, welcoming trees, beautiful scenery—and a deadly, dark, unknown terror that is waiting, watching, and choosing. An ancient entity named Mahtantu stalks his prey.
KH Koehler weaves the story with strong and frightening precision, bringing readers right into the ‘horror heart’ of what is happening. A wonderful example of this is the following passage from the book as seen through the eyes of protagonist, Sarah Runningbear Snyder.
More of those thick, hairy roots, looking for all the world like gigantic tentacles, emerged and started sidewinding along the ground, seeking them out. Sarah half-turned to avoid the flail of a root, shielding her face with her good hand. A sound like thunder was coming from beneath their feet. It’s coming, she thought. Mahtantu is coming…
Mahtantu, in the legend of the Lenape Tribe to which Sarah belongs, is the Great Un-Creator, the opposing force, and great enemy, to the Creator of All Things. Destruction is what he is after.
The main character of Sarah Runningbear Snyder has human flaws like the rest of us—problems, secrets—as well as a boyfriend named Jimmy, who is detestably nasty. We’re rooting for Sarah to leave this man.
As a ranger in the Lacawac Wildlife Management Area, she is called upon to help find a missing family of campers. She is a woman of two distinct worlds—the modern day one where she excels at her job as a ranger— and the mystical one of her ancestors. As a member of the Lenape Tribe, she has knowledge of the area and all the mystery of the woods—old, powerful. Her grandmother called power, Mantowagan and hinted that Sarah had the power deep inside herself. And, as the story progresses, she may well have need of it.
It is Sarah who plays the pivotal role in THE SENTRY. Unlike the campers and the hikers, who are unaware of the dangers and what can befall them, she knows what can exist in Lacawac besides the deceivingly beautiful scenery.
The secondary characters are real and relatable, people we might know in our own lives. Co-workers, significant others, good or bad, and strangers whose actions somehow impact our lives. Certainly the missing family of campers have an impact on Sarah’s life.
The crux of the matter in any good horror story, and this one is absolutely excellent, is our innate belief in monsters. The reality is that there is someone, or something, out there who we need to acknowledge as real and as the monster of our most terrible nightmares. (They exist, oh help us all, they exist, you’ll say to yourself!)
KH Koehler masterfully plays on our fears creating a story of intense depth and rising terror that will have you looking at the natural world in a new light. Step-by-step, with excellent wordplay, KH Koehler takes the reader into a world inhabited by an age-old, and ageless, entity that will haunt your dreams and make you a true believer in old tales of the monsters who live among us.
I highly recommend THE SENTRY for your reading pleasure.
Koehler is the author of many genres of horror including SF, dark fantasy, steampunk as well as YA. She writes novels and novellas.
© 2017 copyright Kristen Houghton all rights reserved.
Kristen Houghton’s new novel, Unrepentant: Pray for Us Sinners, book 3 in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation has been voted one of the top five novels by International Mystery Writers. Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, and a children’s novella. A former political contributor, she now writes breaking news articles, as well as book reviews and author interviews, for The Huffington Post.