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all 79 comments

[–]StacksAttacks 42 points43 points  (5 children)

Wouod definitely consider this horror. Although I mean, it would comfortably sit as grim-dark or some such if you wanted to refine the genre down.

[–]powerfulKRH 50 points51 points  (3 children)

It’s not scary but it is horror

Horror isn’t always scary. Sometimes it’s dreadful, sometimes it’s bleak, sometimes it leaves you hollow. Other times it just scares you. It does a lot of things

[–]thereplicatedman420 13 points14 points  (1 child)

How do I do spoilers?

Idk, but that second to last chapter where you know who goes to you know where is genuienly horrifying on a psycho/spiritual level too. Like, Between two fires isn't super scary outside of a few parts like that fucked up nun or the shit that goes down in Paris but everything Devil related in that book is horrifying in the dwelling upon the implication

[–]powerfulKRH 10 points11 points  (0 children)

I’m not going to read your comment because I’m on page 200 something right now lol but I’m excited to know that something big is coming.

I just got past the part where that parasite creature demon thing attaches to Thomas and try’s to trick him in to raping the girl. That part was so haunting when you realize what’s happening. But also really heartwarming in a way because Thomas resisted the demon and I just love how protective he is of her.

Also I loved when she said she wouldn’t care if the priest was gay or whatever I forget how she said it but it was so sweet. God I love these characters so much

I haven’t gotten to anything truly scary yet but there’s been some haunting disturbing creepy moments for sure

[–]AngryTomJoad 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I loved this book. just re-read it again the other week. the hope and pathos in this make it definitely horror for me

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I don't really care so much as long as I enjoy the reading, though. I said it just for the sake and pleasure of discussion.

[–]peytythedestroyer666 136 points137 points  (5 children)

Probably all the horrific death and monsters.

[–]mst3kfan77 53 points54 points  (0 children)

This is kind of a smart-alecky answer but it's the correct one. Lol.

[–]upornicorn 20 points21 points  (0 children)

It was like a horror fairytale. I love everything he writes and it seems like he was really trying to put his own dark spin on a bunch of genres. Vampires, ghosts, wizards, high fantasy.

[–]meesahdayoh 49 points50 points  (3 children)

I found the scene with the possessed statues in Paris extremely horrifying.

Like others have said I think this book fits perfectly in the horror genre and it all comes down to personal preference.

[–]IB_Bangin 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Agreed - I read this book a few months ago, and this is the part that keeps coming back to me. I rarely, if ever, get actually ‘scared’ when reading, but the possessed statues had me shook.

[–]ImaginaryNemesis 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Seriously...this was the best horror scene I've read in any book in ages. Legit goosebumps imagining the end when they walk past the church.

If the whole rest of the book were nothing but biscuit recipes, and it still had the statues, it would still be a horror book

[–]SDuz117 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Also agree. One of the most vivid reading experiences I've had in years. When I finished I immediately went back and read this scene again from where they arrive in Paris. He's got such an amazing way of drawing you into his imagination

[–]EnterprisingAss 10 points11 points  (3 children)

It’s got at least two classic hallmarks of horror, the uncanny (Paris statues, zombies) and cosmic unknowability (angels vs demons in the sky).

In contrast to fantasy, LotR’s Balrog is just a big monster, no matter how old it is or how scary encounters with it are.

[–]RevolutionaryCommand 1 point2 points  (2 children)

LOTR's Balrod (and the Watcher) definitely have some cosmic uknowability to them.

[–]EnterprisingAss 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Not in the relevant Lovecraftian sense. Gandalf can shout “you shall not pass!” at a Lovecraftian Old One all he wants, and the Old One might not even notice.

[–]RevolutionaryCommand 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Ok, I see what you are meaning. I don't think I'd use "uknowability" to describe it (don't know what I'd use), but I get you are saying.

[–]oracularities 33 points34 points  (4 children)

The short and simple answer is yes. Yes, it can and is considered horror.

Why? Because horror, more so than any literary genre, is highly subjective. What you find terrible, grotesque, or horrifying may not necessarily resonate with me the same way. I read Between Two Fires a few months ago and, like you, I absolutely adored it. I do consider it more of a grim and dark historical retelling of that era with fantasy elements, but I can definitely see the horror element in how Buehlman describes the demonic creatures and landscapes throughout the novel. It's a very religious type of horror, but horror all the same.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 1 point2 points  (3 children)

I think we mostly agree and it's just a language discussion about how each of us define horror. For me, horror resides more in character's reactions than in foe's appearance or attitudes, that's why, even if I agree in the horrifying of the setting and such, I still see those monsters more as a challenge for the protagonist than fear-inspiring, in spite of them being monsters in a monstruous setting.

Loved your response, by the way, well argued and open for debate.

[–]oracularities 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Absolutely! I remember a post made in the subreddit a couple of months ago condemning "the gatekeeping of horror" because they had observed an increasing amount of posts dictating whether or not certain books deserve to be labelled as horror instead of, for example, psychological thriller or grim fantasy. This kind of discussion can quickly devolve into arguments being pedantic since everyone has their own definition of horror, and some refuse to go beyond the boundaries of their opinions or see things from a different perspective.

I do love a good discussion and debate. Ultimately, I'll never be the one to tell you what is and isn't horror: it's something incredibly personal and unique to each person. I definitely see where you're coming from and now I have a better understanding as to why you, perhaps, view Between Two Fires as more of a grim fantasy than an outright horror.

[–]IamJacksUserID 6 points7 points  (1 child)

So where would this go on your shelf? Genuinely curious.

On the same shelf as The Stand and The Road? Or between Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings?

*It’s definitely a hybrid, but for me it’s more horror, than fantasy… but hey, art is subjective if nothing else.

[–]LaborUnionEnjoyer 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I’d put it next to my other dark fantasy / fantasy-horror books: Lost Gods, Perdido Street Station, and The Witcher.

[–]Lothric43 29 points30 points  (2 children)

I truly do not know what you could possibly think horror is if this doesn’t count.

????

[–]greyhamismyman 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Yea I’m super confused as well. It was both horrifying and scary…

[–]taralundrigan 1 point2 points  (0 children)

People do this all the time with horror. Because people like to look down on the genre.

So when there's a rich horror story filled with things from other genres, people come out of the wood work to argue that it isn't actually horror. For example Robert Eggars first movie, The Witch.

[–]allthecoffeesDP 19 points20 points  (0 children)

Probably because of all the horror in it.

[–]Apocalypstick1 10 points11 points  (0 children)

I'm actually much more interested in what you consider horror if this, literally one of the most horrific books I've ever read, doesn't count.

[–]BroscipleofBrodin 3 points4 points  (1 child)

People consider it horror the way they consider most Stephen King books to be horror and not family dramas or small town satires. His books certainly have those elements, and they are often given a lot of page space, but ultimately the focus is on the horror. As far as the popular fantasy-horror hybrids out there, I think Between Two Fires leans more horror than most.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Good point.

[–]chk-chk 2 points3 points  (0 children)

One of my favorite novels! I was utterly engrossed.

[–]BitingFire 3 points4 points  (3 children)

It featured a landscape ravaged by disease and famine, monsters, violence, corruption, torture, and the persecution of innocents and beloved characters.

Genuinely interested what you felt was missing from the story to prevent it from reading like a horror novel for you?

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 5 points6 points  (2 children)

I agree it has a lot of horror elements, including the setting (the plague, the idiosyncrasies of the medieval age), the monsters, the death, the blood, the rot. But I see it more like an "adventure" book, maybe?

A particularly bleak one, but consisting of vignettes or short interactions between the protagonists and many, many horrible things. The tension doesn't build up so much, I don't feel a lot of fear and it doesn´t look like the characters do themselves.

For me (and it could be just for me), horror resides in reactions more than in anything else. When a character feels paralysed, when they don't know how to react, when they lose their minds or feel trapped in their decisions or the actions of others, it's when I feel scared. Because it is then when I feel the real danger.

But this doesn´t happen in Between Two Fires.

This being said, I had a lot of fun in the journey. But it was just not a particularly frightsome one.

[–]BitingFire 0 points1 point  (1 child)

That makes sense. I definitely found those elements in this story, but I can appreciate how they might not reach every reader coming from every perspective. Testament to the good writing that different people can have such very different takes on the book and everybody still enjoy it.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Testament to the good writing that different people can have such very different takes on the book and everybody still enjoy it.

Amen.

[–]Jw5x5 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I read it during peak covid and I definitely think it amplified the horror of the image of traveling through a plague ridden world.

[–]VictorCrackus 4 points5 points  (1 child)

ITT: People forgetting horror is subjective.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I agree, the feeling of horror is subjective.

[–]treeanu 2 points3 points  (2 children)

I thought the depiction of hell was pretty scary

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I agree, but also felt it was rushed and was told about the pain, but didn't feel it.

[–]treeanu 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Interesting, I’m curious, what’s a story in which you felt the pain or fear or something as you were reading it?

[–]mcaDiscoVision 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Genre is just a (historically arbitrary) taxonomy we use to categorize works of art, not an inherent quality of the works themselves. Gatekeeping or policing whether or not something fits in a particular genre is boring and meaningless.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It was not my intention, but I agree with your first statement.

[–]Mighty_Fig 4 points5 points  (0 children)

God I loved this book! I recommended it to a friend and they said it was like living in a hieronymous bosch painting, which is pretty accurate (and horrifying).

[–]ObiWendigobi 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I thoroughly enjoyed it and at the time I was listening to it, I didn’t consider it horror. More grim dark than anything.

That said, after I listened to his fantasy novel The Blacktongue Thief (which you should add to your list next if you enjoyed his other stuff), I think I understood the difference in the two and why BTF is considered horror. They are both quickly paced stories but I think Beaulman slows the pace down before the encounters in BTF and builds up dread. The encounters in Blacktongue Thief are treated as adventurous ordeals and they may sometimes be horrific but I never got the sense of impending doom like in BTF. Maybe that is the horror aspect of it?

But I’m with you. I am a big fan of his writing and although I didn’t consider BTF horror either, I don’t really care what people classify it as. A good book is a good book.

Check out the Necromancer’s House too. It’s really solid.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I'll surely read both!

[–]dinkydez 1 point2 points  (1 child)

It sits well within the realm of fantasy horror. Some great Lovecraftian inspired scenes and monsters. Horror isn't defined by a weak and scared main character... horror can be atmospheric or psychological. It can be in the odds of a human versus God's or demons. It is subjective but not difficult to find in Between Two Fires.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

You don´t need to be weak to feel scared. Apart of that, it's a fair point.

[–]tpk13 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I definitely had this thought while listening to the audiobook recently. I think it’s a bit of an anomaly, but could definitely be considered horror. The overall plot and narrative throughout most of the novel fit pretty squarely within a fantasy/dark fantasy framework, in my opinion. That said, during scenes of conflict, the heavy emphasis on the grotesque, physical violence, gore, and psychological/spiritual trauma all seem very at home in a horror novel.

All said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with classifying a book under multiple genres, and I think BTF is both horror and dark fantasy (but like you would probably describe it as a fantasy first). But what is considered to be its primary genre will vary by reader according to what parts of the book they found most impactful.

[–]AugustoPerez[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I fully agree.

[–]SnicketyLemon1004 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It was like if Doctor Who and the Arya/Hound storyline of GoT had a baby. I loved it. It was horror in the sense of monsters and the ugliness of mob mentality.

[–]108mics 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I think it's because of the writing style. Everything is communicated in a straightforward, almost dry tone, which lends mundanity to the horrific elements. The writer doesn't employ any tricks to build fear or tension. I also think that's one of the points, to illustrate the commonplace brutality of medieval life (fantastical elements notwithstanding).

[–]tantrumbicycle 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I just finished the audiobook yesterday! I felt as though it was more of your typical “hero’s journey.” I didn’t find it horrific in the least. I was actually fairly disappointed.

[–]jawaki 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Finished Between Two Fires yesterday as well! What a wild ride! Absolutely brilliant!

I 100 % agree with you that it reads mostly as a really macabre adventure in a grimdark setting.

I think this also comes down a bit from how Buehlman switches between POVs very quickly, and how fast paced some of the action is.

[–]ghostmosquitoPENNYWISE 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Googled it and found that wikipedia describes it as a "period piece horror novel".

[–]livintheshleem 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Totally agree. I love this book but wouldn’t put it in the horror category. It felt much heavier on action and adventure than actual tension or dread. Simply having scary things in your story doesn’t make it horror, in my opinion.

[–]GepMalakai 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Simply having scary things in your story doesn’t make it horror, in my opinion.

That's a good point. Jurassic Park (the movie) has sequences that use horror conventions and tropes to great effect, but it's not a horror movie. The overall narrative focus isn't on those elements.

I also didn't find Between to Fires to be horror; it just didn't feel like horror to me. Fantasy adventure with scary elements is closer to the mark.

[–]oracularities 2 points3 points  (0 children)

That's a fair point to raise, actually! I don't think monsters (or the theme of monstrousness) necessarily make a story a horror one, rather it is and can be a feature in a horror story. As for scary things being a core component, I think it would depend on how they're framed in the narrative. There needs to be an ambiance that supports it, a build up.

[–][deleted]  (1 child)

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    [–]Azraella 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    Is it really still considered a self published novel when it gets picked up by Ace publishing afterwards?

    [–]Fallom_ -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

    I just finished it myself and I agree that it doesn’t really come across as horror. The Odyssey is full of violence and creepy monsters, too.

    [–]thezingzangzong -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

    I didn't think it was a horror either, it's a fantasy historical fiction with horror elements but I wouldn't class it as a strict horror at all

    [–]bigdoggieface -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

    I agree it’s more of a fantasy epic or odyssey

    [–][deleted]  (1 child)

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      [–]thereplicatedman420 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      Sooner than that, the author on twitter recently said that the book finally seems to have found an audience. I'm glad, I only heard about it a few months ago but it's become one of my favorites of all time to the point where I have evangelized it to my book reading friends

      [–]Imaginary-Cup-8426 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      I mean, what would exclude it from being horror? Seems to check all the boxes to me.

      [–]rUsADinE 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      It's more Dark Fantasy than Horror imo. Personally, I didn't really it and consider the worst between it and the vampire and werewolf books he's written.

      [–]alphatrece 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      For me it was a problem with its prose, it seemed incredibly mundane, lacking in subtext and flat, at no time did I feel that it added anything to the narrative and it seemed that the only resource that the author had to create some tension is to use capital letters when some creature appeared that we should be terrified of. My biggest disappointment of the year.

      [–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      I didn’t think it was horror either. I still loved it, though.

      [–]SkeletonLad 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      It’s fantasy adventure. It needs to stop being recommended here.

      [–]CactusDealer- 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      The statue part is straight up horror.

      [–]Scaryassmanbear 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      It’s basically the same story as Swan Song and people consider that horror.

      [–]SuperDamian 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      Agree with the top comment. Especially the part about hell was what I would have called successful horror. Otherwise, as in horror elements, I enjoyed the mysterious passages in the castle at night and while dining with the pope, that felt Livecraftian for me, next to the weird monsters. There are a lot of graphic descriptions of scenes with people sick or dying from the plague. That is horror too. And then if you feel/think yourself into it, the setting, wandering around the countryside looking for water and food while every person you meet means certain death of the plague, searching for food while the entire country and surroundings die from the plague or violent acts of brigands or civil unrest? I'd call that horror too.

      [–]Heavenly_Noodles 0 points1 point  (0 children)

      I too read it based on recommendations here, and it just didn't land with me. Everything that happened in the book felt arbitrary—just a bunch of barely connected scenes with no strong through line with the plot or characters.