‘I suspect these fables are born from the dread that perhaps, if one takes time to peel back the skin of another, they will find an imposter, a machine, or stranger still, something like me’
For the Interprovincial Medical Institute, to grow is to survive. For hundreds of years they have done this by taking root in young minds, possessing them and shaping them into doctors, slowly replacing every human practitioner of medicine.
But now it appears they have competition. Following the mysterious death of one of their doctors in an isolated castle to the far north, a replacement is sent to investigate. Yet upon arrival they find not a simple cause of death for the doctor, but a parasite. And in the dark depths of the castle, already a pit of secrets and lies, it’s spreading.
With the other inhabitants trapped inside by the freezing winter winds, these two enemies will battle for ultimate control.
The question is not who will make it out alive, but what?
MY REVIEW *
I’ve seen quite a few 5 star reviews for Leech, so my viewpoint might be in the minority but I was so tempted at multiple points to DNF this book, it was only down to the fact that I’m quite ahead on my TBR deadlines that I stuck it out.
The premise of Leech is an interesting one – the book is told through the perspective of an un-named Parasite infecting a Doctor’s body. The parasite is part of The Institute – an organisation which infects young minds and shapes them to be Doctors with enhanced knowledge of healing. When one of their bodies dies in a remote castle, our protagonist is sent to investigate.
Although the idea of a parasite as the lead character is an interesting one, it actually made for a confusing read. At the beginning they can see into other minds and other bodies in other places which makes the narrative a little hard to follow in places. When it then becomes just the main character you then don’t feel much empathy for them as they don’t have much of a personality. The ending then takes another turn as you see flashbacks from other characters who the parasite has infected. I think this perhaps needed chapter headings as it jumped from flashback to present day.
The whole book can be summed up by the word ‘confusing’. The local dialect that is used is very hard to understand and even in the standard prose the author uses unusual and difficult to understand words (or even words that are made up, in places) which makes for a very tedious read. Although it’s relatively short, it definitely drags. All of the characters are awful with no redeeming qualities which, without a strong or interesting main character, means you have no-one to route for throughout.
Although initially I thought it was a horror set in the past, there is actually a lot of fantasy elements woven into the story which just make it harder to work out what’s going on. One of the characters has a tail, which is never explained, there’s a pair a child twins whose hair gets tangled together at various points. I couldn’t really understand if they were supposed to be conjoined twins or not and then at one point they walk through walls and it’s implied they might be dead? I have no idea… The village is mining for Wheatrock which I understood until they started eating it. All of the scenes set in the dining room in the castle just read like a fever dream.
Overall Leech is an interesting premise but it’s a real mess - full of unlikeable characters, hard to understand words and a difficult to discern plot. Thank you to NetGalley & Pan Macmillan – Tor for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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