Review: Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

hemlock groveReviewed by Jen

On a scale of 1 to 5, internally rate how much you love the following:

  • Terrible sentence structure and a complete disregard for the use of commas.
  • A self referential writer/ narrator.
  • Frequent use of the word “retard.”
  • ESP tied to the testicles of a main character.
  • Plot developments seemingly placed entirely for shock value.
  • Incest/ rape.
  • Giant gaps in the storyline with no explanation.
  • Major unanswered questions.
  • A conclusion that makes little or no sense.

If you gave a “5” to more than one of the above listed book-travesties, Hemlock Grove may be for you. I hesitate to think that it really may be for anyone at all, but a bunch of people on Goodreads gave it 5 stars, so there’s that.  There are also a lot of people who really enjoy the show on Netflix, but I have never seen it and I can’t compare it to the book. If they are anything alike, I don’t see a binge-watch in my future.

The story is essentially built around the characters of a gypsy named Peter and an upir named Roman.  What is an upir, you ask? You find out at the very end. (You’re not supposed to know. Don’t Google it or the reveal falls flat.)  Anyway, Peter is a werewolf and an outcast in his new town. His other nature is a secret, except apparently, to the other supernaturals and a teenage neighbor who seems to have some very potent reading material on the occult.

Someone is killing girls in the neighborhood in a grisly manner.  At first, Peter and Roman suspect one another, but then eventually work together to find the killer.  There are also other things going on like secret research at the nearby biomedical institute; Roman’s giant 7-foot sister who can’t speak and walks with her feet encased in giant milk crates full of soil; an immaculate conception for Roman’s cousin; some weird maybe brainwashing thing that has to do with prime numbers?; the list goes on.  So does my list of things that make no sense or were thrown in for shock value: like the character who smears himself with grease so a wolf can eat his face. Like what in the fresh hell is Roman’s mother? Like the seriously bizarre explanation of Roman’s birth.  Like how a dead character came back to life.  Like how the killer became a werewolf.  Or like how the doctor was building a body for “his best girl.”

There are so very many things that are baffling that I can’t even pretend to be shocked by the ending which is a bizarre combination of disgusting, lame, and soaked in WTF-ery. Plot threads dangle.  I honestly don’t even care.

I had to read passages over and over again, because the phrasing was so awkward and the punctuation is so bad.  And then, not long after the narrator/ writer of the story is revealed… s/he dies.  So WHO WROTE THE REST OF THE STORY?  It’s not even consistent with its own premise.

I kept waiting for it all to come together in some awesome –or at least interesting– way. After all, they made a show out of this book and there is going to be a second season.  But it never happened. This is just a hot mess.

Rating: D-/F

*Book provided by the publisher for review

Click to purchase: Amazon

Hemlock Grove
by Brian McGreevy
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Publisher: FSG Originals


  1. Christina Tanner says:

    There is a series on Netflix based on this book I think. I saw two episodes and have up. It was terrible. I will not be reading this either. Great review.

  2. I tried watching the show after hearing it was good (even my DH liked it) but I could only watch about 15 minutes of it and stopped.

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