Muse of the Month: Locke and Key

With autumn fast approaching, it seems like the perfect time of year to talk about one of my favorite book series… which is why September’s Muse of the Month is Locke and Key!

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Locke and Key opens with a terrible tragedy – the murder of of Rendell Locke, and the violent assault of his wife, Nina. This fresh trauma haunts Nina and her three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode – who were present when the crimes took place – as they make their way across the country to their new home: the mysterious Keyhouse. The family quickly learns that the Keyhouse holds many strange, supernatural secrets… some are exciting, others dangerous, and still more downright terrifying, but all pointing towards a sinister past steeped in magic and horror. In the midst of coping with unimaginable emotional burdens, the Locke children and their mother begin discovering more about the dark history of the house itself, as well as the magical keys they find hidden in its shadows.

That’s about as much as I can say without giving away too much of the plot, but if you’re a fan of Joe Hill’s other books (which include Heart-Shaped Box and Horns), I’d definitely encourage you to give this series a try. The plot is intricate, but never boring, and the characters all feel satisfyingly fleshed out and believable. The story as a whole is as intense as it is well written – which is probably why it won the 2011 Eisner award for Best Writer.

But awards and hype aside? I love these books. Like, a lot. The characters deal with trauma and loss in complex, intimate ways that keep them painfully human, and the way the story unfolds is absolutely scintillating. No matter what, the books always found a way to keep me turning pages to find out what happened next.

I can’t credit this entirely to Joe Hill’s storytelling, however… this would do a disservice to illustrator and architect Gabriel Rodriguez, who helped bring the comic to life with his gorgeous artwork. The combination of Hill’s writing style and Rodriguez’ art is a display of six books’ worth of harmony between art forms, and is both a visual and literary treat.

A few panels of Rodriguez’ work from the books – these scans don’t do the series justice!

While I love Locke and Key and could probably gush about it for another few paragraphs, I want to advise my readers that these books have a lot of intense supernatural horror themes. While the books don’t show graphic sex or gore, there are implications of sex and sexual assault, as well as depictions of emotional and physical abuse, murder, and gruesome violence (including characters being shot, stabbed, etc). Make no mistake, these books get dark and bloody. If you’re familiar with Joe Hill’s work, you may have a good idea of what to expect, but sensitive readers may wish to skip this collection in favor of something more low-key (pun intended).

Happy reading!

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