Short Take: “Tenderling,” Amy Cross

Pros: Just plain fun
Rating: 4 out of 5

After a couple of other not-so-great books I read recently, I was desperately in need of something fun and good, along the lines of horror or sci-fi. Somehow I found my way to Amy Cross’s novella Tenderling. It’s about a family–parents and an eight-year-old daughter named Cally–that moves into a new house. Cally immediately senses that something besides her family is present, and she doesn’t believe it’s friendly. Gradually her family seems to unravel as first her mother, and then her father, fall under the Tenderling’s spell.

It’s a simple tale told well. The details are appropriately icky and bloody, and of course we get to watch the parents gradually go mad. I like that they go mad in different ways. The psychiatric ward that makes an appearance is overly stereotypical, but in general the characters in here are good, even if Cally is obvious as the star and hopeful hero. At least, this being a horror novel, you can’t be entirely sure what end will befall her.

The characters were fun. The pace and tension built up beautifully; just remember this is a novella, not a full-length novel, so the pace and details move faster than you might otherwise expect. I loved the ending, although I won’t say what direction it went in. The Tenderling itself becomes more interesting as it goes.

If you want a short, enjoyable horror read, Tenderling makes a good choice!

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