The Narrows by Travis M. Riddle

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I’ve read a fair number of books by this author, and I’m always so surprised by each book. They are all so wonderfully different from each other, you never really know what you’re going to get.

This is an urban fantasy/horror set in Texas in 2018. Three friends have gone back to their hometown after one of their childhood friends dies. He supposedly committed suicide by taking too many of his anti-depressants and was found in his car. Oliver, the main character of the story, doesn’t quite believe that. His friend Noah had never been known to have serious bouts of depression or suicidal tendencies, but what other explanation could there be? They had fallen out in the couple years preceeding his death, and because of that, Oliver has a whole host of battling emotions, he’s not even really sure if they were still friends when he died, they hadn’t spoken in so long.

Oliver goes back to the site where his friend passed, and discovered something horrifying. A man was convulsing on the ground in erratic ways, and he wasn’t sure if he was on some drugs or having a serious medical emergency. Before he could do anything to really help, since he didn’t have his phone to call for an ambulance, the man started throwing up bright flourescent orange liquid, then he started to melt like ice cream until there was nothing left. This is not a world where magic is supposed to exist, or monsters, or demons, or anything remotely like that. This is just like our world, so Oliver flips his shit but doesn’t tell anyone because maybe he’s just haveing a psychotic break.

Turns out, one of his friends is experiencing oddities, like someone’s distorted screams outside her bedroom window. They go to investigate but only Oliver sees something unusual, a monster on top of a house… except the house isn’t really the one he was supposed to be looking at. It’s like there’s another layer of reality or a different dimension sharing the same space. Honestly, just think of Stranger Things and it’s kind of like that. His friend didn’t see this, but she can tell by how distraught he is that he wasn’t making it up. What Oliver has stumbled upon is called The Narrows, and it’s a land of horrors and monsters.

I liked Oliver from the start, he’s just a nice relatable character that’s going through a major loss. I found his grief, mixed emotions, and process of dealing with loss very believable. I basically deal with death for a living, and not in a clinical and more typical doctor/nurse kind of way. A caretaker sits with a person all day long and hears stories of their lives, sees their decorations in their house, learns their likes and dislikes etc. After that I see what happens to the family when their loved one is gone and there are a wide range of reactions, but once you see it dozens of times over they fall into certain categories. I get hung up on a character if they have an odd or not-quite-right reaction to a major loss. There weren’t many characters in this story which gives it an intimate feeling. I liked the other side characters well enough, but I feel like I really only got to know Oliver and Ash.

This author has a way of making the prose flow so easy breezy that I barely notice I’m reading, if that makes sense. I get just enough description to get a picture in my head without focusing so much on it gets bloated and clogs the story. The dialogue is natural and believable and fades into the background. Good writing means that I’m not getting hung up on weird dialogue and clunky descriptions that pull me out of the story.

The pacing was a little slow for the first third of the book, it was giving a lot of context and relationship building between the characters and not much was happening with the plot. It did pick up speed and continue to go faster until it hit a crescendo right before the end. I also feel like the story was wrapped up nicely, it doesn’t say that this is part of a series on the Goodreads page, so I assume that this is a stand alone book. If so, there is a big unanswered question about his friend Noah that’s left ambiguous, and that never fails to drive me insane. It’s done on purpose and mimics life in that many times when we lose someone, we don’t get closure the way we want to, and we just have to deal with that and find a way to cope.

If you’re looking for a frightening horror that keeps you creeped out and scared, this is not that. This is something more similar to Stranger Things in that it’s creepy but not horrifying. If you like that kind of more nuanced horror/fantasy then I would definitely recommend this.

TLDR Snapshot:

  • Tropes: group of friends, seeing things no one else can, monsters
  • Tags: LGBT friendly, slow burn, character driven, spooky, good audio
  • Genre: Horror/urban fantasy
  • CW: Suicide


  • Plot: 11/15
  • Characters: 12.5/15
  • World Building: 11/15
  • Writing: 12.5/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 76/100 or 3.8/5 on Goodreads