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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

To Break a Covenant

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2


"Moon Basin has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember. It started when an explosion in the mine killed sixteen people. The disaster made it impossible to live in town, with underground fires spewing ash into the sky. But life in New Basin is just as fraught. The ex-mining town relies on its haunted reputation to bring in tourists, but there’s more truth to the rumors than most are willing to admit, and the mine still has a hold on everyone who lives there.


Clem and Nina form a perfect loop—best friends forever, and perhaps something more. Their circle opens up for a strange girl named Lisey with a knack for training crows, and Piper, whose father is fascinated with the mine in a way that’s anything but ordinary. The people of New Basin start experiencing strange phenomena—sleepwalking, night terrors, voices that only they can hear. And no matter how many vans of ghost hunters roll through, nobody can get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Which is why the girls decide to enter the mine themselves."


 

To Break a Covenant is a standalone YA horror novel by debut author Alison Ames.


While this is nowhere near perfect, I thought that this was an okay book, especially considering this is a debut book. It suffered from some directional issues and a lot of the time nothing much was happening, but there were well-written moments of tension and atmosphere along with some unsettling and claustrophobic imagery.


I will say though that I think it was a bit of a miss marketing this for fans of Wilder Girls since, in my mind, it didn't have the same setting or content.


Now, let's get into the details.


 

WRITING


The writing didn't flow as well as I would have liked at moments, but it was easy enough to get through. There were long chunks of text sometimes as well which ended up having the opposite effect of what it was going for.


When tensions were high, the author would go into detail describing what was happening. It is supposed to make you feel immersed, but because of how long the chunk of text was, it ended up washing away the impact it could have had if the text was broken up.


This can also be considered mixed-media as well as there are paranormal show scripts written into the book.



PLOT


As I said in the introduction, I did end up more or less enjoying myself, but I did have a good amount of issues with the book. Let's start on a positive note though.


This book takes place in Moon Basin, which is a hot spot for paranormal investigators after a coal mine explosion resulted in the disappearances of 17 miners. A good concept that didn't reach its full potential.


It took a good amount of time to get somewhere as I noticed that even when I was 20% in, all that was happening was the girls hanging out. There were also a lot of strange shifts in tone as one second something serious would happen and then the scene would change to the girls just hanging out. Moments like this didn't really add much to the narrative, along with the inclusion of the paranormal investigation episodes.


The episodes were inserted in the text in order to show how widespread the occurrences were and how they were affecting the people of the town, but I don't think it was the right way to describe what was going on. Not that it didn't give you new information, but I thought that having this be the book's main exposition instead of through the eyes of the main characters was an odd choice.


Some information about the character was just thrown in there without preamble. For example, you very suddenly find out that Clem worked at the radio station only because you were dropped in the middle of her broadcasting.


There were also moments in the story that were not needed at all. I will go into this because I wouldn't necessarily say it is a spoiler. In one of the paranormal tapes, a woman was describing how she didn't know how to comfort her baby, so she would essentially strangle them until they were quiet. This did not need to be in this book not only because it added absolutely nothing to the story, but also because of the sudden triggering content.


One downfall for me was that I wanted more from this story, not only because there was just too much wasted space, but also because I thought there would be more to the story than there was. I also wasn't the biggest fan of the direction the story ended up going in. The ending was rushed and I was left with questions that needed answers and context.



CHARACTERS


The characters were...okay? They were decently fleshed out and had distinctive personalities. There was a lot of clashing between the characters which I could have done without, and there were a lot of laps of logic with the characters. For example, why would a grown man take his daughter and her friends into a potentially dangerous mine?


I will say though, Nina was a bit of a frustrating character, because she was exactly the kind of person who would be the reason why people die in horror movies.


Ending on a positive note, there is queer rep though as Clem is lesbian and Nina is bi.



CONCLUDING THOUGHTS


Even though I thought this was a decent read, more could have been done with this story with the space it was given.


There are mentions of animal death, child abuse and infanticide, so I would caution you before going into this.

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