Briardark | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"For Dr. Siena Dupont and her ambitious team, the Alpenglow glacier expedition is a career-defining opportunity. But thirty miles into the desolate Deadswitch Wilderness, they discover a missing hiker dangling from a tree, and their satellite phone fails to call out.
Then the body vanishes without a trace.
The disappearance isn’t the only chilling anomaly. Siena’s map no longer aligns with the trail. The glacier they were supposed to study has inexplicably melted. Strange foliage overruns the mountainside, and a tunnel within a tree hollow lures Siena to a hidden cabin, and a stranger with a sinister message…
Holden Sharpe’s IT job offers little distraction from his wasted potential until he stumbles upon a decommissioned hard drive and an old audio file. Trapped on a mountain, Dr. Siena Dupont recounts an expedition in chaos and the bloody death of a colleague.
Entranced by the mystery, Holden searches for answers to Siena’s fate. But he is unprepared for the truth that will draw him to the outskirts of Deadswitch Wilderness—a place teeming with unfathomable nightmares and impossibilities."
Briardark is the first book in an adult horror series by S.A. Harian.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Compass and Fern for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also, note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
I found this book while browsing through NetGalley, and the concept stood out to me so I decided to request it. The concept, for the most point, was a strong point of this story but ultimately this book was okay. Okay though doesn't mean it was bad by any means because, in fact, I did enjoy reading this.
Let's get into the details.
Not many notable things to mention in this section as, for the most part, the writing was fine. The only thing I want to talk about is some additions to the story I found to be unnecessary. For one, there are book excerpts in this that talk about what happened to the people during the last expedition. I didn't think it was the best way to receive that kind of information since there is not much context given about the book itself. Also, the information given was crucial for some backstory and it played a role in some subplots. So maybe unnecessary isn't the right word to use in this case, but I would have liked to get that information a different way.
What I also thought was unnecessary was the multiple perspectives. At the most all this story required was a dual perspective since we would need both Siena and Holden's pov. The additional chapters from Cam, Emmett and Isaac though were not really needed as they didn't add much to the narrative.
Briardark follows a story told from two main perspectives. The core of it follows a group going on an expedition to Deadswitch park in order to study a glacier, but they discover that things are not quite as they seem or imagined and their trip takes a dark turn. We also follow Holden who receives Siena's distress recordings and vows to figure out what is going on. This story wasn't bad, mainly for me because it leaned more towards a Stranger Things or Dark kind of plot. It was atmospheric and leaned into the darker aspects of the story, but it was not without flaws.
For one, I wish the story progressed a bit slower in the beginning in order to really build up that tension and atmosphere, as well as to further set up the character's original intentions. They head out in order to seemingly study a glacier for climate research, but anomalies started to occur right away and the story quickly moved on from their task. So, I do wish that those anomalies started slowly and were more sporadic instead of right away and all at once. I also say this especially because this is the first book in a series, so the book could have afforded a slower pace.
The second reason I didn't enjoy this as much as I could of would be because of plot directional issues, but they are completely subjective to me. There is a specific plotline that was mentioned a few times that worried me because I generally don't like books that focus on that subject, and I was worried it would lean in that direction. In this book, it didn't so far, but I can't say the same for the rest of the series.
This book is more plot-focused than character-focused, as I got more drawn into the story and atmosphere rather than who was carrying it. I didn't mind the characters per se, but I can't say I cared much about them. That's not to say they were badly written as they did in fact feel like real people, especially Emmett who you spend most of the book wanting to punch in the face. The one character I wasn't sure of was Siena, because she is portrayed unreliably due to delusions, and I am generally not a fan of unreliable characters.
An issue I have with the characters though, and by extension the plot, is that the story focuses too much on doomed past relationships. We have Siena and Emmett, and Holden and Becca, and their pasts cover a good amount of the plot, which ended up watering down the story for me. It was just a huge loss of space to focus on that rather than the main story.
This isn't a new concept per se, as I have seen elements of this story before in shows like Stranger Things and Dark, and even in the movie Time Trap. Though this doesn't live up anywhere near the former two, this does somewhat stand on its own since it was mildly interesting to read. Perfect for fans of Lost and House of Leaves though is again a bit of a stretch because that is a lot to live up to.
This is the kind of story that you would see featured in video games by Supermassive Games Ltd (The Dark Pictures Anthology and Until Dawn). If you like that area of survival stories then maybe give this book a shot.