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Gory and disturbing, with points for originality, “Faith of Dawn” is a strange, suspenseful story aimed at fans of folk horror.

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A small Florida town hides a dark, dirty secret.

Amanda Lane’s father sent her away to a New England boarding school at age 14, shortly after her mother left. After boarding school, she joined the Army and lost her leg in Afghanistan. After joining the Army, she became a private investigator. Now living in Boston, she hasn’t returned to the rural Florida town of Mabscott for years.

Two Florida State University students disappear from Ocala National Forest in Florida. After nine months, the investigation goes cold.

One of the students, Nicole, is from Boston. Her father contacts Amanda Lane, who is called Lane throughout the book, to find his daughter. Lane’s investigation leads her back to Mabscott.

Activity in Mabscott centers around “Ma,” an enigmatic maternal figure. Ma hosts Sunday dinners at a compound deep in the woods protected by armed guards. She is the leader of a church called Faith of Dawn, a cult that, like many, looks forward to the end of times.

But Ma’s cult has a bizarre twist.

Kristin Dearborn’s Faith of Dawn is a harrowing folk horror tale of a small town gone mad.

The story is disturbing, as a horror tale should be, but it crosses many boundaries.

Dearborn doesn’t skimp on the gory details. Be warned: the story includes torture, sexual assault, and bestiality.

If anything, Faith of Dawn made me think of exploitation films as it doesn’t shy away from the grittier side of life. Dearborn’s prose is rough but fits the small-town country folk who populate Mabscott. Dearborn aims for authenticity instead of political correctness.

Dearborn’s pacing lags at times. She weighs the story down with superfluous details and irrelevant flashbacks. One example is Lane’s fixation on her estranged husband, Patrick. Dearborn pulls the reader from the compelling present to irrelevant memories.

Lane’s fixation on her estranged husband is grating and borders on obsession.

Lane is not likable in the beginning and comes across as violent and abusive. The reader meets Lane as she tries to force her way into Patrick’s house, causing him to threaten to call the police.

Faith of Dawn does offer more compelling, action-packed scenes.

Kristin Dearborn does a great job of weaving Lane’s PTSD and military training into the narrative. The narrative draws the reader into the mind of a trained soldier. She doesn’t shy away from putting her main character through the wringer.

Dearborn gets points for originality.

Faith of Dawn’s premise is bizarre, centered around a cult in a small Florida town with a disturbing ritual. It incorporates skunk apes, which I haven’t heard of in a horror novel.

Dearborn takes her time developing the plot and characters, creating a suspenseful story.

While attention-grabbing, there are odd choices and twists in the plot. Some characters make decisions that are very out of character and don’t advance the plot of the story. In one instance, we get an implausible plot twist to help the main character.

Ultimately, if you like folk horror, cults, conspiracies, and cryptids, then Faith of Dawn may be your cup of tea.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3
Faith of Dawn is available for preorder from Cemetery Dance Publications. Kristin Dearborn is the author of The Amazing Alligator Girl (2022), Sacrifice Island (2018), Woman in White (2017), Whispers (2016), Stolen Away (2016), and Trinity (2012).

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