Something Red

A Novel

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About The Book

From debut novelist Douglas Nicholas comes a haunting fantasy of love, murder, and sorcery set in one of the coldest winters of thirteenth-century England.

In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?

Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Something Red includes an introduction, discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

A haunting blend of history, fantasy, and suspense, Something Red takes readers deep into the dark woods of thirteenth-century England, where something vicious is lurking. Hob is a boy on the verge of manhood, making his way through the woods with a small troupe: Molly, a middle-aged Irishwoman highly respected for her healing powers; Jack, her strong and silent partner; and Nemain, Molly’s granddaughter. Molly leads this adopted family and their wagons across the Pennines mountain range, but they soon come upon evidence of unmistakable evil. What kind of beast could slash and tear so gruesomely at human flesh and take out an entire inn full of robust men and the fiercest guard dogs? With fear rising in their hearts and the heavy snow beginning to fall, there is no more time to run or hide—the evil must be conquered, and in the process, long-held secrets revealed. 
 

Topics & Questions for Discussion 
 
1. The setting plays such an important part in Something Red. Discuss the ways in which time and place affect the action and plot twists in the narrative. 
 
2. Molly and Nemain seem to have some sort of sixth sense. What are some examples of when they use this sense to determine their next move? 
 
3. Throughout the story, Hob’s feelings about women are continually shifting. Compare his feelings towards Margery and Nemain. How do his feelings for Nemain change and evolve? Do you think the outcome of Something Red would have been different if Margery were still in the picture? 
 
4. At several points in the novel, the main characters are seeking refuge—from the weather, from the evil being waiting to devour them. Think about where you would seek refuge in a crisis. Does the kind of hospitality shown at the monastery, the inn, and the castle exist today? 
 
5. Many of the characters in this story are powerful in either a physical, mental, or supernatural capacity. Who do you think is the most powerful character? Why? 
 
6. Discuss the gender roles in the novel. Are they what you would expect of English society in the thirteenth century? Why or why not? 
 
7. In what ways do the four main characters function as a family? In what ways do they not? 
 
8. Looking back, can you identify any instances of foreshadowing that could have revealed the Beast’s identity? Were there any other characters that you incorrectly suspected? 
 
9. There were so many unexpected twists and turns throughout the story—what was the most shocking or surprising to you? 
 
10. Reread the three paragraphs on page 281 beginning with: “‘Or else the sickness was in among them…”. What exactly do you think Molly means when she agrees, “Like myself”? What kind of power do you think she has? 
 
11. Throughout the novel, Jack is the strong, silent type. He does seem to communicate with Molly, but there is a lack of dialogue on his part. Why do you think the author wrote him this way? How does his character come through in his actions? 
 
12. Jack’s Beast physically takes down the Fox. However, how do the other characters help conquer the evil shapeshifter? 
 
13. Discuss the ending of the story. Were you happy with where it concluded? Do you think there are unanswered questions that could be dealt with in a sequel? How would you have felt if the story ended after the Fox was slain? 

 
Enhance Your Book Club 
 
1. The Pennines is a low-rising mountain range, described as the “backbone” of England. To learn more and to see pictures of this historic, scenic part of England, visit: www.northpennines.org.uk. 

2. Watch one of the many movies featuring werewolves and shapeshifters after your book club discussion. Consider a classic, like Werewolf of London, or a more modern take, like An American Werewolf in Paris or The Wolfman. After the viewing, compare how the shifters are presented in the movie of your choosing versus in Something Red. 

3. Lady Svajone’s alternate form was that of a fox, while Jack shifted into a beastly gorilla. What do you think your animal alter-ego would be? Go around the group and decide what animal each member of your book club would turn into if they were a shapeshifter.
 
About The Author
Photograph by Kelly Merchant

Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books, including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (June 2013)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451660227

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Raves and Reviews

“Rich in historical detail, this suspenseful coming-of-age fantasy grabs the reader with the facts of life in medieval England and the magic spells woven into its landscape.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A hauntingly affecting historical novel with a touch of magic.”

– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Not for the faint of heart, this pulse pounding page-turner grabs you from the start and never lets you go. A wickedly clever and evocative combination of history, horror, mystery, and magic.”—Booklist

“Debut novelist Douglas Nicholas goes for the throat with Something Red. Rich in history, ankle deep in blood, and packed with brilliant writing and whip-smart plotting.”

– Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Assassin’s Code and Flesh & Bone

“I love the writing, the vividness and poetic feel, maybe the sheer 'Irishness' of it. Beautifully observed moments abound in this: a waterfall, a snow-filled forest, a mountainscape. The sense of place is overwhelming; every stone, every flower pops out at you.”—Cecelia Holland, New York Times bestselling author of The King's Witch

“I loved Something Red. Douglas Nicholas conjures up the distant thirteenth century with prose as magical as that practiced by his sorceress-queen. This is a stunning debut novel of lyrical power and suspenseful drama. The hair-raising finale will keep you reading far into the night.”—Carol Goodman, national bestselling author of The Lake of Dead Languages

“Ably conjuring the beauties and drawbacks of the past, and with an engaging and unusual cast-list, Something Red is a thoroughbred novel of nightmare terror, ruled by a force of sheer evil that seems, and may well prove, unstoppable.”—Tanith Lee, award-winning author of The Silver Metal Lover

Relax. Master storyteller Douglas Nicholas is about to transport you to far-away places, show you far-off times; but hold on tight: while the cresting rhythm of his cadenced prose mounts, your throbbing pulse—that same blood clock his characters tell time by—will pound unstoppably, as identical horror howls fatally outside, smiles beguilingly within, and your skin senses stone sweat behind the castle's painted plaster walls, beneath midwinter-deep drifts of snow. When I say Something Red is a sensation, I mean precisely that: this book's sensational! ”—Ronald Christ, author of Bonevardi: Constructing Magic

“As a reader I was so enthralled with the tale, it was like leaving reality and stepping into a wondrous and mysterious time with so much magic in it . . .You will not be disappointed.”—Great Minds Think Aloud

This is a beautifully written work, with evocative prose which captures the essence of traveling in winter in Middle Ages England.”—Snarky Writer

"Written with great skill, this atmospheric, yet gritty, story will remain with you, and it is a wonderful addition to the long line of stories devoted to the magic of fairy tales.”—Book Hog

Something Red absolutely blew me away. This is one of the best debuts I've read in years and the story itself still haunts my dreams. It was all the best elements of Irish folklore, historical fiction, and a very frightening mystery at its cores.”—Chaotic Compendiums

“Douglas Nicholas can artfully narrate a story. I was engaged from beginning to end.”—Agenda Magazine

“The poetic nature of the language, the increasing of the novel’s atmospheric spook and the members of the traveling family made Something Red a winner.”

– MindingSpot

“Douglas Nicholas has written a gut-wrenching, harrowing novel in Something Red; however, he’s also written a touching, realistic story about what made a family, love, and life during a 13th century English winter . . . Nicholas’ storytelling painted this novel with historic realism that made it pop right off the page. . . If you like a non-stop thrilling roller coaster ride, hop on board with Something Red!”

– Popcorn Reads

“Nicholas's beautiful prose, his detailed portrayal of life in medieval England, interesting characters, and underlying supernatural themes make this book a real gem.”

– BookBrowse

“The most stunning debut novel I have ever read. The language is beautiful and descriptive; the novel is an incredible sensory experience for the reader.”

– Examiner.com

“Nicholas handles characterization, setting and atmosphere deftly and expertly . . . Something Red is an excellent debut from a gifted author.”

– Shelf Awareness

“Memorable . . . Legendary.”

– Pate Books

“This darkly atmospheric debut novel is well worth its measured plot-building for its horrific, unexpected ending.”

– Library Journal (starred review)

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