Nestlings is Another Gripping Journey into Terror from Nat Cassidy

Books Reviews Nat Cassidy
Nestlings is Another Gripping Journey into Terror from Nat Cassidy

With his breakthrough horror novel, Mary: An Awakening of Terror, Nat Cassidy revealed himself to be a writer adept at balancing the slow burn of dread with moments of sudden, sheer terror. That novel, the story of a woman who slowly uncovers the truth about her own dark roots and frightening nature, is all about a search for something, and Cassidy milks the suspense of that search for all it’s worth, delivering an unforgettable horror experience. With his latest book, Nestlings, he’s done it again, in a completely different and utterly haunting way, delivering another must-read from one of horror’s brightest rising stars. 

Reid and Ana, a young couple with a new baby and almost a year of bad luck behind them, are finally catching a break as the novel opens. They’ve just won an apartment lottery for a new home at The Deptford, one of New York City’s most historic, elegant, and exclusive residential buildings. People like Ana and Reid can’t afford The Deptford under normal circumstances, so getting a place inside its legendary walls feels like a much-needed win. Or at least, that’s the way it should feel. While Reid is loving their new home, throwing himself into exploring and examining every nook and cranny of its decades-long history, Ana isn’t so sure about the Deptford, and not just because it’s somewhat tricky to navigate the building and its grounds in her wheelchair. No, something else is going on in this stately old residence, something that’s got both Ana and her daughter Charlie on edge. The Deptford, it seems, didn’t just want them because they won an apartment lottery. The Deptford wants something else, something the fledgling family never saw coming. 

Just as Cassidy pitched Mary as a novel that reads like Carrie if the title character were a middle-aged woman in crisis, he’s clearly angling for a take on Rosemary’s Baby with Nestlings. There are clear echoes, right from the beginning, of the too-good-to-be-true deal present in Ira Levin’s classic supernatural thriller, but Cassidy is not content to riff on a story we all know. Knowing winks and nods aside, Nestlings quickly throws itself into forming dark shapes all its own, and that begins with the deft way Cassidy handles not one, but two characters on a journey of discovery.

Though certain other point-of-view characters do drift in and out of the narrative, the bulk of Nestlings focuses on the dual perspectives of Ana and Reid as they try to get used to their new home, prepare for their daughter’s first birthday, and deal with the rising stress that’s come with the secrets and the strange atmosphere of The Deptford. They take different approaches and focus on different concerns, and Cassidy never loses his grip on the sense of individuality that permeate each of their narrative threads. Reid’s journey is one of exploration, of reaching out to grasp a sense of freedom and power that he perhaps never had in his old life, while Ana’s is something a little more internal, built on the stressors of motherhood and of trying to settle into a place that seems determined to unsettle her. But both journeys are rewarding, and enticing, and layered with that same sense of discovery that made Mary such an engrossing read. With Nestlings, Cassidy has rebuilt and reimagined that sense of a slowly unfolding mystery that made his previous work so entertaining, and placed it all inside a lush, shadowy Gothic behemoth in the middle of Manhattan. 

And that’s where the real terror of Nestlings comes into play. The Deptford, as you might expect, is a character in itself, with its own ecosystem and organic pathways to new discoveries and new fears. It’s as fully realized as Ana and Reid, and that leaves Cassidy free to play with all kinds of eerie and flat-out horrifying moments. It’s easy to see the real-world metaphors at work in Cassidy’s horror narrative—-particularly for someone like me, who’s typing this with a seven-month-old asleep next to him—but that doesn’t stop the book from dropping your jaw no matter how clear the parallels are. There are moments of dread, of unease, of slow-burning atmospheric tension, and then Cassidy gracefully and viciously goes right for the throat with an image that will sear itself into your brain. It’s another elegant dance of terror from a great horror storyteller, and it’ll keep you hanging on every word until the very last page.

Nestlings may be releasing on Halloween, but Nat Cassidy’s latest proves that the spooky season never has to end, as long as you can keep reading stories like this one.

Nestlings is available now

Matthew Jackson is a pop culture writer and nerd-for-hire who’s been writing about entertainment for more than a decade. His writing about movies, TV, comics, and more regularly appears at SYFY WIRE, Looper, Mental Floss, Decider, BookPage, and other outlets. He lives in Austin, Texas, and when he’s not writing he’s usually counting the days until Christmas.

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