Page Count 352
Publication date March 2022
You can’t escape the desert. You can’t escape Sundial.
Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because she fears what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.
Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive.
Be warned there is frequent animal cruelty in Sundial, I paused to hug my pup on multiple occasions!
When Rob discovers daughter Callie’s deranged and violent tendencies she takes her eldest child on a trip to her abandoned family home and shares the story of her past in a mother-daughter bonding she hopes will protect her children.
There’s a thick atmosphere of dread within Sundial. A continuous sense of impending horror, almost cosmic. The desolate, desert commune setting enhances the feeling that something inevitable is happening; something evil.
Letting the readers own imagination provide reasons and motivations without certainty is a tool I appreciate in horror and Ward does this brilliantly, particularly throughout the telling of Sundial history; a strange, secluded commune with a sinister secret.
To begin with I absolutely hated Rob. She’s weak and petty, I just wanted to slap some sense into her. Whilst that was a recurring feeling throughout, Ward twisted my opinions on Rob over and over with superb character development.
Sundial is written from multiple POVs across both present and past timelines with occasional bizarre stories.
These little stories, written secretly by Rob as a form of self help, are a mash up of an old childhood favourite set in a school alongside her own memories. Every character is named after the people in Rob’s life but rather than moralistic schoolyard tales the stories boast casual violence in the style of a fever dream.
This insight to Rob’s imagination heightens the layers of instability Ward conjures.
A minor dislike for me was Rob’s habit of creating what she calls ‘decision trees’, essentially a numbered list of actionable options that are utilised throughout her present point of view.
I also thought Callie thinking and speaking in emojis (crying face) would irritate me (eye roll) but I actually found they lent an originality to her voice that I welcomed.
As I always find with Ward’s writing the character development in Sundial is beyond impressive and of course, just as you think you know the truth… you don’t.