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Review: All the White Spaces - Ally Wilkes

Genre: Horror

Published: Titan Books, January 2022

My Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Ally Wilkes debut novel brought some genuine shivers to my spine, and they weren’t just because of the vivid Arctic setting…

Set in the twilight years following World War II, All the White Spaces is an Arctic, historical horror novel with a more modern-gothic twist. We follow Jonathan, a trans young man who stows away on an Antarctic expedition, in order to prove his rightful worth in the world of men. As a horrible disaster leaves the crew stranded ashore during the Arctic winter, with little means for survival and no hope of rescue. The men travel inland in hopes of finding refuge, but soon find themselves in the never-ending unmapped white-lands, where everything feels eerily wrong. In the Polar night, lit only by the chilling lights of the Aurora Borealis overhead, they soon realise they might not be as alone as they initially thought.

It’s not hard to see why this novel worked so well for me. I’m a sucker for modern-gothic horror with troubled characters who must face their personal ghosts and trauma’s. I’m also a sucker for all things set in the Arctic, so combining these two was a match made in heaven.

All The White Spaces delivers on all of these points: it’s highly atmospheric, claustrophobic and genuinely nightmarish at times. The combination of a supernatural threat, with the very real horrors of survival, isolation and war trauma, make for a powerful contrast that drives home both sides. Although the plot was slow to get started, and I have to admit that I was bored during the first 20% or so, the characters and their faiths really began to grow on my throughout. With a story that is, in its purest form quite reminiscent of the likes of The Terror and Who Goes There, it’s the characters and especially the inclusion of a trans protagonist against a historical setting, that set this book apart from the crowd.

A few minor points of critique keep this novel from being a full 5-star experience for me. The pacing throughout the first half could’ve been improved, shortening the introduction a bit, to match the latter half better. I also found some of the dialogue to be a little clunky, but not to the point where it was bothersome.

Overall, an impressive and bone-chilling debut by an author whom interests and style seem right up my alley.

All the White Spaces is set for release on January 25th in UK and Europe, and March 22nd for American markets. Many thanks to Titan Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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