Author: Erin Craig
Narrator: Rachel Music
Audiobook Length: 14 hours 21 minutes
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range – five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
After greatly enjoying the mystery within House of Salt and Sorrows, I was excited to try Small Favors. While the two stories are not related, both have the same mysterious fairy-tale-like vibe. The cover for this novel is gorgeous and provides a nice bit of deception as the novel is darker than the “happy” colors would make you believe. The story takes place in the isolated town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range. Ellerie Downing Is the daughter of a beekeeper and is learning the craft from her father. When a supply party goes missing, the great mystery of the story is revealed as some worry that there are monsters at fault.
The town of Amity Falls is a close-knit community ran by the council of the three founding families. The Downing family goes through many obstacles as Ellerie and her twin brother Sam start acknowledging some newfound differences between them. The town initially is one community, but the fear of the disappearances, death, and potential for dwindling supplies becomes a powerful motivator. The author’s writing for setting the tone during each part of the novel was very well done. As the tension continues to rise, even the reader starts to question what could be real and what could not. The story is told from Ellerie’s perspective, but twists and turns began to make question how reliable of a narrator she is and if everything was what it seemed.
The story flows through various seasons and the tone reflects the surrounding atmosphere. While I would not describe the novel as a “scary” read, there is a horror quality to the writing. It is a slow roller coaster as the tension slowly builds bit by bit leading to a very intense and tension-filled climax, similar to a psychological thriller while not quite fitting the genre. This leads to a satisfying conclusion, which, for me, was a little rushed. While I enjoyed the ending, even if it is a little open-ended, I would rather have it expanded a little, especially, considering the slow build up in the rest of the novel.
Considering the circumstances, I was a little weary of Ellerie as a character. She was a little too trusting considering everything going on around her. While Whitaker was interesting and mysterious, the romance developing between him and Ellerie was difficult to connect with as, again, it felt like she trusted him too quickly. This part of the story was very reminiscent of House and Salt and Sorrows, which might be the author’s go-to style. It will be interesting if this type of subplot exists in all her novels or if her next one will try something new. (I still enjoyed it even if they were similar.)
Overall, I loved Ellerie’s development over the course of the novel. Ellerie was still a very interesting character to follow as she starts the story thinking her life in the town is boring, but things quickly become chaos and now she must navigate a way out. The writing is a very interesting take on “Rumpelstiltskin” where trades are important things to think through fully. There are some characters that I am left with more questions than answers. The reader has to infer the ending of Gideon and Sarah and have to imagine past Sam. For Sam, the reader is told a lot about his past, but it is not the same character in the story. Without an explanation about how he got from point A to point B, it was difficult to believe that point A existed in the first place. This excellent slow burn mysterious fantasy will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. I will easily read the author’s next novel as I continue to enjoy her work!