Kristin Dearborn first came to my attention earlier this year with the DarkFuse release, Woman In White. I liked that one well enough, but noted in my review that, "I could have gone for some deeper character explorations...and I could have used way more of the supernatural aspect." Apparently, Stolen Away was the Dearborn title I was looking for!
Trisha is a recovering addict and single-mother to Kourtney. Her and the ex, a tattoo artist named Joel, aren't on the best of terms, but after her son is kidnapped, the two find themselves reunited to protect their daughter and find her missing boy. Unfortunately, this abduction has a few wrinkles to it, not the least of which is that Brayden's father is a demon. Like, a literal demon. You know, from Hell. In his human form, he even has a tattoo on his back in big bold letters that say DEMON. So, yeah.
Dearborn delivers the goods with the supernatural aspect here, keeping the nasty stuff front and center. There's a lot of great demonic stuff happening herein, from possession and exorcisms, to our tattooed body-modder anti-heroes learning the ropes on all-things underworld, along with some half-demon ass-kickers and a scene or two that pay lovely homage to John Carpenter's The Thing.
Dearborn brings the action front and center, but also gives us a reason to care for Trisha and Joel beyond their positions as beleaguered parents. Both have a history with one another, and are in various stages of recovery from their drug-fueled past and questionable decisions. These aren't spit-shined do-gooders, but damaged goods that have been in rough spots and are still trying to do right by themselves and those around them, and not always succeeding.
I also really dug the subtle layers of feminism that Dearborn wove into her tale. This is a story about loss, but it also has strong elements of female empowerment, bodily autonomy, and combating rape culture and harassment (sometimes directly and violently). It's really awesome stuff, and, in my view, helped raise the narrative to a higher place thematically, putting it up above more pedestrian demon-hunting stories. I hesitate to call it "message fiction," since Dearborn keeps these things on the down-low, and because fiction with any kind of a message, either overt or not, apparently makes some sensitive readers sad and squeamish. Stolen Away, though, does have some vital commentary on the role of women in society, and it's refreshing to read demonic horror fiction where women aren't reduced to mere sexpots ripe for exploitation or in need of saving by either the big strong man or religious righteousness. Again, it's subtly (and suitably) handled but well-worth noting, and Dearborn incorporates it beautifully in order to serve the story and highlight the particular, and multiple, brands of horrors she's working with here.
[Note: This book was provided for review by Hook of a Book Media and Publicity.]