Nightshade’s Requiem tells the tragic tale of Cole Nightshade, a young orphan who endures a particularly bad string of luck. After his Nana’s death and a disastrous experience with a foster family, Cole is sent to Saint Edwards Mental Asylum. There, he encounters a whole host of monsters, both human and inhuman, all while trying to wrap his head around a seemingly newfound set of psychic abilities. Luckily, Cole befriends some of the other kids in the ward. Together, they do their best to survive the asylum and the deranged entities within.
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of Nightshade’s Requiem is the intimacy and relatability of the characters. From the start, Hains builds the reader’s relationship with Cole and his new friends Kenny, Timmy and Cynthia. These are good kids with good hearts, stuck in an awful place. I think that the juxtaposition of the purity of the children with the darkness of the asylum really makes Hains’ character work stand out. However, that isn’t to say that these kids are perfect. They are all in the asylum for a reason, and all have their flaws. This only serves to bring us closer to them, as we learn about each of their troubled pasts. Had Hains not been so profoundly able to build these characters, the reader might not find themselves too invested in what happens to them.
There’s only one thing that just didn’t sit well with me. Within days of meeting Kenny and the others, Cole tells them about certain paranormal phenomena that he’s experienced in the asylum. Without question, each of his new friends accept that at face value, and tell him that he must be what they call a seer; someone able to see the dead and glimpse the future. The nonchalance of this reveal and the unquestioning acceptance of Cole’s abilities just fell a bit flat for me. Maybe it’s the skeptic in me, but when someone admits that they see ghosts, I expect a little pushback or skepticism. None of that is to be found here though. Cole’s revelations are met with matter-of-fact acceptance and interest.
The most unique aspect of Nightshade’s Requiem is the two-layered framework the story is told in. While the majority of the novel is told third-person through the perspective of Cole in the year 1962, every so often there is a chapter set in the present day. These present day chapters revolve around Chaz and Evie, who are tour guides at a ghost tour attraction that has been built in Saint Edwards Asylum. We see Chaz and Evie give a guided tour of the asylum, giving facts, theories and legends surrounding the place. This framework was especially effective because Hains made sure that the ghost tour isn’t completely accurate. The information presented by Chaz and Evie is largely legends passed down by word-of-mouth over several decades. It makes sense that there are some mistakes, misinformations, and mixups. It’s fun to see a side-by-side comparison through Cole’s eyes of what really happened followed by a muddled legend based loosely on the truth told by Chaz and Evie.
Nightshade’s Requiem is an emotional, character-driven story of friends banding together to survive. While it’s not too heavy on the horror, there is plenty of suspense, thrills, and mystery to be found. Also, there are a few brief periods of pretty heavy gore and violence. If you’re looking for a total bloodbath, this might not satiate you. Fans of psychological horror and classic haunted asylum stories will certainly enjoy this one. Nightshade’s Requiem is a fun and quick read, and if you find something you like, there are three more Nightshade books to dive into. So why not check yourself into Saint Edwards for a bit?
About The Author
Anthony Hains is a professor emeritus of counseling psychology with a specialization in pediatric psychology. He retired in May 2018 after 31 years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Anthony lives with his wife in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. They have one daughter.
Photo and text from https://www.anthonyhains.com/