Road of Bones is a horror novel set in the Siberian wilderness, as a man set on making a documentary about the Kolyma Highway finds himself pursued by uncanny creatures. Felix “Teig” Teigland needs a win, after constantly losing money on his work, and he’s brought his friend Prentiss as cameraman and companion along to the harsh environment of Siberia in the desperate hope of making a documentary series people will love. The highway is also known as the Road of Bones, where Stalin’s prisoners worked and died to build the road, but Teig has found a guide and has a plan to document whatever they see. However, when they reach the town they’re aiming for, it is suspiciously empty.
Without wanting to give away too much, this is a book that both does what it sounds like—creates horror around being in a very cold place where something unnerving is happening—and doesn’t do what I expected from the title and early focus on the highway. It opens with Teig and Prentiss starting out their journey, giving backstory to why they’re there, and then follows them as they meet their guide and head on. From the documentary setup and the focus on the Road of Bones, you might expect more about history and the prisoners, but actually the book is much more about ethereal, unnerving creatures and folklore, with the highway more of a minor player.
There’s plenty of chill, both in terms of cold and the creepy situation, and Road of Bones is definitely atmospheric, with a tense feeling of otherworldliness and uncertainty about what will happen. The pace is fast and you get a classic story of a group of people fighting to get away from somewhere, but the blurb and start seem to set up for quite a different kind of horror.