Blog Tour + Review – Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Hello everyone,

It is my turn on this exciting blog tour for Harrow Lake, which is set to be released this summer. As soon as I read the blurb I knew I had to be a part of this, even if it made me have to defy all of my principles and join Netgalley!

So thank you very much to Dave @ The Write Reads for organising it, and Jenniely for helping to make it possible. Many thanks also to Kat Ellis, for allowing us to read a free copy.

Pages: 320
Published: 9th July 2020
Genre: Young Adult Thriller/Horror
Trigger warnings: References to sexual assault and suicide

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

This book is every bit as eerie and intense as the blurb suggests. Complete with a haunting atmosphere and an overwhelming feeling of trepidation that is ever-present throughout, the author uses classic horror elements and unsettling imagery to create a compelling tale which often left my head fizzing with intrigue.

There are many moments where the lines between reality and tricks of the mind are skilfully blurred, during a story that began with an original concept and became gradually more complex along the way as several interesting themes were added to the mix. All of this takes place in a chilling and creepy setting that you would be unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Lola is the teenage daughter of acclaimed film director Nolan Nox, and has lived a very sheltered life due to his exhaustive attempts to keep her out of the public eye. One evening, Lola returns to their apartment to find her father seriously wounded, and so is sent to stay with her grandmother in the town of Harrow Lake for the duration of his recovery.

Harrow Lake is the place where Nolan shot his most iconic film, Nightjar, and also met Lola’s missing mother Lorelei, who starred as the main character Little Bird. As well as having an unusual obsession for Nightjar, the people there believe in the puppet-like figure of Mister Jitters, whose presence has been used as an explanation for a series of mysterious events.

From the moment Lola arrives, the place gives her uncomfortable vibes as she realises there is no wi-fi or telephone connection to speak of. There are many secrets hidden in Lorelei’s old room, and she begins to experience some strange visions that make her wonder if Mister Jitters does really exist. As more frightening incidents take place, it is apparent that Lola’s life is in severe danger.

The defining feature of this book is the setting, without question. Harrow Lake is like the town that time forgot, and is certainly not the kind of place where I would like to take a holiday. With the help of some well-chosen words, the author uses location and repeated sounds to impressively convey a high level of tension, as well as the ongoing sense of impending danger.

Although there were moments where some of the action became slightly repetitive, the plot was still relatively gripping. I enjoyed the subtlety with which some of the themes were handled, and how they eventually came to the fore later in the book as the realities of Lola’s life steadily began to emerge. This is for me where the storytelling was at its most effective.

With the exception of the beginning and the end, which take the form of a transcript from a radio interview, the book is told entirely in the first person from Lola’s perspective. I found the narrative to be reasonably engaging and what seemed clear to me from an early stage is that the author had a very thorough and detailed understanding of her main characters.

There is more to Lola than originally meets the eye. At first, she seems somewhat aloof and even a trifle unlikable, but as you begin to learn more about her it soon makes sense. This is in many ways a story of self-discovery, and I found her relationship with Nolan to be one of the most fascinating elements of the book.

While Nolan appears very little in person, his influence over Lola is wholly evident and she often finds herself imagining what he would say to her in a particular situation, to either advise her or to dismiss something as arrant nonsense. It makes for compelling reading, especially considering what you learn towards the end of the book.

The only thing I have to seriously question about Lola’s viewpoint is the constant use of the word ‘Optimal’. It is capitalised on every occasion and I thought early on that it might have some significance – I know what it was trying to get at – but it turned out to be just a fairly meaningless meme.

In terms of the supporting characters, they were something of a mixed bag. I found Lola’s grandmother rather freaky, and I grew to like Cora for being the only one who had the sense to want to escape Harrow Lake. Carter was portrayed as a kind of romantic interest for Lola, but I thought he was given very little personality, while his mother Ranger Crane was not too well developed either.

The ending was dramatic and interesting, and I really did like the neat little twist that came about there. I just had a few issues with the what happened in the passage just before the end. It seemed to lack clarity, and there were some questions left unanswered about Lola’s fate.

Overall, this was a well written young adult thriller that succeeds with a sinister atmosphere, an all-encompassing setting, and a number of innovative ideas which help to raise the tension by an extra notch. Not all the characters were well developed or plot strands fully resolved, but for a book that is a bit different from my average read, I found it mostly enjoyable.

Kat Ellis is the author of YA novels Purge, Blackfin Sky, and Breaker, and the novella The Twins Of Blackfin in the Three Strikes collection. Her next book, Harrow Lake, will be published in the summer of 2020.

You’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, trekking through ruins and cemeteries with her camera, or watching scary films with her husband.

A very decent read complete with atmosphere, setting, and good writing, along with a protagonist who gets more interesting as the story moves along.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

  • I was given a free e-copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, and remember to check out the other reviews in the blog tour 🙂

19 thoughts on “Blog Tour + Review – Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

  1. Great review, Stephen! I agree with you on many things, especially the use of Optimal and how the bit before the ending wasn’t the clearest and left some things unanswered,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading it now and I have been getting quite distracted at the overuse of ‘Optimal’ – I was expecting it to be some sort of plot point because it’s used so much!

    Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Defy your principles and join Netgalley? That’s an intriguing opener! I’ve read a lot of positive reviews for Harrow Lake from the blog tour posts but yours has managed to convey a sense of the story’s atmosphere that the others didn’t. I wasn’t sure this book was for me but I’m second guessing my judgement after reading this. Fab review Stephen! – Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Jen! I’m glad you enjoyed my review and I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts if you decided to read this book. 🙂
      And yes, haha I was never planning on getting Netgalley, but this blog tour forced my hand!


  4. I’m just getting to this now—was intrigued when you mentioned you defied your principles and joined NetGalley for this! wonderful review. I think the Optimal thing would’ve grated on me too. I noticed that YA thrillers have become popular lately, but I’ve never picked one up before. How would you say YA thrillers differ from thrillers for adults? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I agreed to join the tour, I had no other option to get the book than to join Netgalley!

      I would say that the main differences in YA thrillers is that they usually feature a younger (often teenage) protagonist, and don’t tend to go as deep when exploring hard-hitting themes.

      Thank you, Gil! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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