Horns by Joe Hill: Book Review

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4 Stars

Ignatius Perrish wakes up after a drunken night with honest-to-goodness horns growing out of his head. At first, he thinks he’s just going crazy. But as he ventures out into the day, he finds that other people can see them too; they’re just too busy telling him their deepest, darkest secrets to really comment on them. Oh, and if they know him, they’re telling him exactly what they think of him. That would be bad enough for anyone, but when you’ve been (falsely) accused of raping and murdering your girlfriend and the whole town thinks your famous father got you off, what people have to say to you gets real vicious real fast.

I hate the name Ignatius. Even shortened to Ig or, heaven forbid, Iggy, it’s just awful. And then to pair it with Perrish. I couldn’t help but think of Iggy Pop.

That aside…

This was scary but not in a horror-y way. Well, not for the most part. There’s the thing with the horns, but the real scare here is how this kind of thing happens every day. Again, not the horns, but the rape/murder of an innocent girl. And we always think it’s the significant other who did it. Sure, most of the time it is, but what living hell the innocent ones must go through. Not only have they lost a loved one but they’ve been accused of doing it as well. *Shudder* Ig shows us exactly how little it feels that life is worth living after that.

What makes this so hard to read is that Ig was about to have it all. He and Merrin have a fantastic relationship. They’re high school sweethearts who look like they’re really going to live the happily ever after. They’re both pursuing their career dreams and then they’re not. And that is what makes this book so very difficult to read.

The horror-y bit that really, really got to me was the snakes. Oh my goodness, the snakes. I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to finish. I would say I have snake-a-phobia (Ophidiophobia. Don’t say you’ve never learned anything from my reviews). Maybe I should have expected that this guy, who is becoming more devil-like by the day, would develop an affinity for snakes. I didn’t. I’m sitting here shuddering just thinking about it. I would think, “Okay, I’ve got to be through it,” and there would be more. When it really did seem safe, here the snakes came again and they were so, so, so bad. *trying not to think about it*

I’m also wondering if all boys really get up to the crazy crap that Hill and dad King write about. I mean, these guys get up to some insanely dangerous, destructive things. Did I have my head in the sand around the boy cousins I grew up with? They did some stupid things, but nothing like this.

I really liked that I was never entirely sure what to think of Ig. He says right up front that he didn’t kill Merrin, and I believed him, but there’s got to be a reason for the horns. I was rooting for him, but I was still questioning him a little. He can influence people and make them act on their darkest desires, and he does that a few times. What a heady, easily-addicting power to have. Was he going to come down for good or evil? I mean, c’mon, he has devil horns. He can’t really be the good guy. Can he?

Hill slowly makes us question our perceptions, i.e. what looks evil vs what truly is evil. They are not always the same and yet we insist on conflating the two. Horror with a philosophical bent. Who knew such a thing existed?

Oh, last little tidbit–I loved that Judas Coyne was mentioned in this book! Will we someday need a concordance for Hill’s work as well?

I prefer Heart-Shaped Box, but this was still another very strong horror novel from Joe Hill. I will definitely continue to follow his work.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Joe Hill on his website and Twitter.

Check out Iggy Perrish’s playlist.

Buy Horns at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. I read this book and I thought it was good except for the whole revenge part… it seemed anti-climactic once Ig got around to going after the guy. However, I did like how his horns compelled people to tell him their darkest secrets.

  2. I just reviewed Heartshaped Box, have to admit, it wasn't my cup of tea at all. I definitely preferred Horns. It was a great memory of what the boys got into as children, lol

  3. I like how you classified it as Horror with a philosophical bent. Heart Shaped Box was a favorite so I'll definitely have to check this one out as well.

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