Halloween Land is the first solo novella by Kevin J. Kennedy. This tale is about two teenagers that attend a carnival, but it’s not just any carnival… This is a magical one, and not everyone that enters the gates will walk back out.
Part of this story first appeared in Collected Halloween Horror Shorts: Trick ‘R Treat, back in 2017. Since that story landed, I have thought back to it so many times. When I heard this would be a collection later, I absolutely could not wait to read it.
Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating in any way. I will also be purchasing a physical copy.
Let’s dive in!
My Thoughts on Halloween Land by Kevin J. Kennedy
First things first, how beautiful is that cover by François Vaillancourt?! I cannot wait to see this one in print.
Next up I have to say that I LOVED the foreword by Natasha Sinclair. I’m a total sucker for when a foreword gets me really pumped to dive into a book that I was already excited about, and that was exactly the case here. The last line of her foreword was absolutely perfect: It’s my honour to take your ticket and open the gates – welcome to Kevin J. Kennedy’s Halloween Land!
When I first reviewed the short story, I said: I’m a total sucker for any story that is set in an amusement park! This one was so awesome! The characters were lovely, the action was thrilling, and the plot was interesting!
And now here we are! I was so excited to dive back into this world. All of those notes still hold true, but my goodness, seeing this transform from a short story to novella was really neat!
I loved that we got to see the same scenes that we had visited before, but with so much more action this time! Right along with the terror and suspense, we also got to know more about our main characters, Zak and Wendy, as their relationship developed further.
This was such a perfect blend of the dark and spooky plot, and the uplifting coming of age element.
Just a few more notes as I don’t want to spoil all the surprises!
The scene where Zak and Wendy first see some of the carnies that are dipping in and out of the shadows was super creepy! I actually felt my anxiety spike during that scene with a heavy dose of dread.
Later on, there’s a scene where we get a glimpse at some of the places that the carnival has popped up in that I really enjoyed. This scene was so vivid and exciting! It also opens this up to many spin offs if the author wanted to do so.
There was also a scene where we jump into the future that I actually shouted out loud, “OH NO!“
Overall, this is a wonderfully written novella that has jumped to the top of my favorites list! I would kill to see this on the big screen!
Before the book concluded, there was also a poem and artwork-
Halloween Land Poem by James Matthew Buyers
This poem was so fun and sums the story up wonderfully while still keeping the tone!
Halloween Land Art by Mar Garcia
I had seen the first piece of artwork here via Kevin’s social media and I am still so obsessed with it! Seeing the other pieces was a ton of fun. The pumpkin man was my favorite!
My Favorite Passages from Halloween Land
Now that night had fallen, it felt like an entirely different carnival. Darkness lends a feeling of magic to carnivals; the flashing, coloured lights coupled with the enchanting music has them feeling like they were part of another world. Another world of whimsy, magic and excitement – where anything could happen – even if only for one night.
The freaks crept around in the background, not necessarily hiding but definitely staying out of the way. Zak and Wendy wondered if they were simply people in costume, hired to make the place look a little scarier, but if that was so, the ‘costumes’ were pretty high end – it would’ve been a waste to not show them off. One of the freaks has four arms and appeared to be using all of them. It seemed elaborate for someone that a lot of the revellers would only get a passing glance at.
Before they knew it, they were at the front of the queue, and they had barely spoken the whole time, both caught up in their thoughts of the future together without either being able to vocalise their feelings.
“… It is what it is, just like most things in life. Not believing it doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with it.”
Zak slipped his hand into Wendy’s without a second thought as they began to walk to the library. It hadn’t even occurred to him how simple the transition from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend had been. They hasn’t even had their first kiss yet, but he was confident that they would be together forever. He wasn’t someone who believed in fate, but they had know each other their whole lives, and he knew he would do anything for her.
Life would likely always be tough, but at least they had comic books and horror movies.
…and the last was slowly walking after Zak with a relaxed killer from a horror-b movie type of confidence. They seemed to be in no hurry.
“Don’t they usually say something cool in the movies right about now?”
“You mean cheesy?”
“What you got?” Wendy asked.
“How about… When this is all over, it’ll be raining pumpkins!” Zak said in his best tough guy voice.
My Final Thoughts on Halloween Land
If you enjoy vividly written carnival horror with wonderful coming of age elements mixed in, you need to go pick this one up! I had so much fun reading this! While I was anxious to see how things would turn out, I also didn’t want it to end!
I cannot wait to also snag a copy of this one in print!
Snag a copy using my Amazon affiliate link or inquire at your local indie bookshop: