A review by arielmarkenjack
Agony's Lodestone by Laura Keating

dark emotional mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


The #sfnovellaofthemonth for June 2023 is Agony's Lodestone by Laura Keating, published in April 2023 by Tenebrous Press.

A lot of the most effectively terrifying horror I have read comes from a place of engagement with the devastation of losing someone important. Agony's Lodestone is a perfect example of how frightening it is to contemplate the shape of life carved out by loss. Each of its central characters has, in their own way, lived their entire adult life around the hollow space where their lost sister, Joanne, once lived. The near-tangible presence of that hollow makes it uncommonly easy to believe in each character's choices--both before and after the present-day events of this shockingly eerie novella.

Contributing to the effectiveness of Agony's Lodestone is its beautifully immersive landscape. Keating's descriptions of the coastal New Brunswick setting provide just enough information for readers to easily picture--and smell--the mysterious, gorgeous, and uncanny backdrop to the adventure Joanne's siblings find themselves on when they set out to chase down a new clue about her long-ago disappearance. Agony's Lodestone offers atmosphere in spades, perfectly calibrated to serve the story without obscuring any of the plot's emotional impact. 

Agony's Lodestone is quite a stunning exploration of things remembered, forgotten, and warped by guilt and grief. I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, and I recommend it to anyone who likes reading about complex relationships and the horror that may be found just under the surface even in the midst of natural wonders.