Catriona Ward | Sundial

The Book: 

Sundial by Catriona Ward

Published March 1st 2022 by Tor Nightfire
Date read: March 9, 2022

The Characters: 

Rob, her husband Irving, and her children Callie and Annie

Rob’s sister Jack

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Buy it on | Amazon

The Plot (from Goodreads):

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, internationally bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street.

You can’t escape what’s in your blood…

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

Click here for book spoilers for Sundial
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read Sundial, I suggest you turn back now.

The Twist: 

The puppy farm wasn’t a puppy farm. Lena and Bert were keeping children captive there (possibly selling them) on their meth farm. Rob and Jack escaped, and Rob killed Lena after Bert OD’d. The rest of the children died.

The Ending:

Annie was the “bad” one. Callie was just trying to protect her, and trying to keep her from getting sent to “child prison”. Annie wanted to kill Hannah. She set Callie up with the diabetes pills: she ate a bunch of blue candy so she’d throw up blue, and hid the pills in her lamp to kill Hannah. She left the cap in Callie’s room so that Rob would take Callie away from Annie. (Why didn’t Rob rush Annie to the hospital after OD’ing on pills?? Even if it was to keep Callie out of trouble. She easily could have said Annie got into them herself, and personally it’d be way too high of a risk for me to wait it out!)

Annie was the one killing animals. Since Callie could see their ghosts, she kept their bones to keep them safe.

Rob took Callie to Sundial to explain to her why she was different. She was also luring Irving there to kill him–Irving was abusing her and threatened to take Callie if Rob ever tried to leave him. Callie was really Jack’s daughter, but Irving was still her biological father. (Although, a paternity/maternity test wouldn’t have ruled out Rob’s motherhood, right? She and Jack were identical so a DNA test would show that Callie had 50% of the same DNA as Rob?)

The last scene was Rob and Callie rushing to save Hannah, but it was kind of implied they wouldn’t make it in time and that they’d protect Annie anyways.

The Review: 

Thank you to Tor Nightfire for a complimentary ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I officially adore Catriona Ward’s writing. She somehow takes absolute horrific themes and spins them into a fascinating story. Just like Needless Street, Sundial ends up being nothing like what it seems.

Pat read this one first, and as soon as he finished he told me to read it ASAP so we could discuss. This thriller was spun amazingly well. The plot unfolded at the perfect rate. I was never bored, and any time I was a little confused it was all to further the storyline. When the timeline first flashed back to Rob’s childhood at Sundial, I had no idea what was going on with the dogs. Everything becomes clear eventually, so don’t give up!

I listened to part of the book on audio, but I was certainly glad I had a physical copy as well. A few scenes had me thinking “wait, what?” and flipping back to see what I missed…but like I said, it all becomes clear in the end.

There are certainly a whole host of trigger warnings associated with this book, and I will admit that some scenes were almost too much for me. (Dumpster Puppy had me bawling) Proceed with caution.

Callie’s POV was my favorite. She was quirky in such a fascinating way. I loved hearing her internal voice, especially her goofy emoji-speak. 

I am endlessly impressed by Catriona Ward’s creativity. I can’t wait to read more stories from her dark, disturbing mind!

Audio Review: I really enjoyed the audiobook of Sundial. It really added to the creepy element of the story, especially listening to it in the dark before bed! The narrator did a great job of conveying the emotion felt by each character. I will say that certain scenes were a bit confusing, and I wasn’t always sure if I had missed something or if I was meant to be confused. I was glad I had a physical copy to flip back through, although I should have just waited it out because everything gets cleared up in the end.

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