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To Offer Her Pleasure by Ali Seay [Review]

Following up her fantastic grindhouse-inspired ‘Go Down Hard’, Ali Seay has penned an altogether different tale, albeit one that is just as gripping and entertaining, with her latest novella, ‘To Offer Her Pleasure’.

Ben is a fifteen-year-old boy who has recently lost his father to cancer. His mother has grown increasingly distant, dealing with her husband’s passing with alcohol and a string of destructive relationships. When his mother ups and leaves one day, leaving Ben home alone, he finds himself surprisingly indifferent to her absence.

When searching his fathers’ belongings Ben comes across a book. The cover is plain, almost like a photo album and when he looks inside there is no text, no pictures. Just a title page with four words.

To Offer Her Pleasure

Ben soon finds that the answers to his problems may lie inside this book’s pages. All it demands in return is a little blood and a little sacrifice.

Whereas ‘Go Down Hard’ was a bold, joyously entertaining book, ‘To Offer Her Pleasure’ is a much more introspective and downbeat, almost nihilistic story.

It presents a young protagonist who has lost both of his parents in quick succession and finds he has nobody else in his life he can turn to. What follows is a melancholy character piece as we follow Ben trying to make the best of the hand life has dealt him, until things take a decidedly more disconcerting and disturbing turn as the supernatural presence of the book asserts itself. I won’t spoil any further details about the book, how it works, or what it does, but Seay has created a memorable and scary new antagonist here and wisely doesn’t give away too much information as to its motives or desires, making it all the more unsettling.

I loved the ambiguity when it came to Bens character, namely his actions as the book progresses. When we first meet him, he is a good kid going through a difficult time. You can tell by the way he thinks and the way he talks to people that his heart is in the right place. That begins to change once he finds the book and his actions begin to feel less and less like the ones of the boy we meet in the opening scenes, taking in stray animals and missing his father. What isn’t clear (and purposefully so I expect) is how much of this shift into darker thoughts and more concerning behaviour is the influence of the book, or whether this was who Ben was all along, now freed by the book to be the person he was from page one. Perhaps there’s an answer in between, whereby the things Ben is going through are changing his perspective on things, and these are just both sides of a troubled young man. There is no answer forthcoming, and the shift is so gradual, and masterfully paced, that you barely even notice it until things get really dark.

It is a rare but joyful occasion when you pick up a book with sky-high expectations, and that book not only meets them but knocks them out of the park. To Offer Her Pleasure is a heart-breaking and chilling look at loss, grief and isolation and a book that firmly marks out Ali Seay as a must-read voice in the horror genre.

Richard Martin
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Richard Martin

Reviewer

Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books. 

The Book Dad
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The Book Dad

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