Small Favors by Erin A. Craig was my most anticipated release of 2021 so I was ecstatic when I was approved for an ARC from Netgalley. Of course, it was just my luck that I was approved after I had already pre-ordered a physical copy😅 I don’t mind, though, because this book is gorgeous and I can’t wait to have it on my shelf. Small Favors doesn’t officially release until July 27th but I made sure to pre-order because after reading Craig’s first book, she became an auto-buy author for me. Craig’s debut novel, House of Salt and Sorrows, was one of my favorites of 2020 so I KNEW I was going to adore her second release… Unfortunately, and it pains me to say this, that wasn’t the case. I would typically keep my review spoiler free since this is an ARC but I have so much to discuss that there will be spoilers.
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
- Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Small Favors was a solid 3.5 star read for me but since Goodreads doesn’t have half stars, I’ve decided to round down to three. I made this decision because while I do love a great deal about this book, I think the issues I have outnumbers what I love. Let’s start with the positive, shall we.
Craig is simply a good writer. Her books grab my attention and I can’t put them down. I FLEW through all 480 pages because I needed to see what happened next. Her worlds are immersive and her characters are always flawlessly written. It doesn’t matter how many characters there are, each one will be unique. In Small Favors, the main character is Ellerie. Ellerie has two sisters, Merry and Sadie, and a twin brother, Sam. Sometimes siblings in books can be kind of indistinguishable but that was not the case here. I truly loved every character, even the villains.
I also love the way Craig takes classic fairytales and twists them into something gothic and creepy. I’ve discovered after reading her books and The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, that macabre fantasy is my favorite way to partake in the horror genre. The fantasy element keeps it from being too much for me. While House of Salt and Sorrows was a spooky take on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, this book was a take on “Rumpelstiltskin.” It was clear that this book was also heavily influenced by Needful Things by Stephen King. Needful Things is one of my favorite King books so I did enjoy that aspect of the story but at times, I think Small Favors borrowed a little too much from Needful Things. With that, let’s talk about my issues with this book.
Small Favors takes place in the fictional town of Amity Falls, located somewhere in the eastern United States… I think. This book never gives a clear location or time period. I don’t really care about the location because it’s fictional but I would like to have a better understanding of the time period. It’s definitely historical and if I had to guess, I would say the 1700s or 1800s. Craig also kept these details vague in House of Salt and Sorrows, however, I think it worked better in that book because everything from the location to the religion was fictional. Amity Falls is not only located in the USA, it’s also an intensely Christian town, bordering on cultish. While I don’t mind Christianity being used in books, I think it took away from the fantasy/fairytale element.
Along with the Christianity taking away from the fairytale feel, the story in general wasn’t fairytale like. The “Rumpelstiltskin” aspect was very vague throughout and nothing really happened with it until the end of the book. This was particularly disappointing to me because I really wanted to see Craig’s take on it. This book was honestly more inspired by Needful Things than “Rumpelstiltskin.” If you’ve read King’s book, you’ll know how it ends and that is almost exactly how Small Favors ends. Up until the ending, I was enjoying the similarities between the two but having this book end with a town wide fight scene just didn’t do it for me.
The ending in general is why I can’t rank this book higher. Until about the 50% mark, this was a five star read and it dipped down from there. There were a few random things that didn’t go where I expected them to and it affected my overall enjoyment of the story. I’m going to get into them now but I’m going to put them in a bullet list for clarity.
- One of the main creepy things happening in the town was the animals giving birth to deformed and monstrous babies. This was brought up multiple times so when Ellerie’s mother and Sam’s girlfriend both became pregnant, I assumed we were going in a real spooky direction. I thought that either one or both the babies would be born deformed or as something other but that didn’t happen. Sam’s baby was born totally normal and we never find out about Ellerie and Sam’s sibling, which brings me to my next issue.
- Ellerie’s parents, Gideon and Sarah, played a pretty big role in the first part of this book. I really liked them and liked what they brought to the story. When a pregnant Sarah was severely injured, she and Gideon left the tiny village for a bigger city to seek medical care. We NEVER find out what happened to them. It’s left totally open ended. They may have lived or they may have died. Leaving this open ended was a major misstep, in my opinion.
- One of my only complaints in my review of House of Salt and Sorrows was the instalove. That is also a problem here. The love interest is Whitaker and I really do like him. I liked him and Ellerie together but I wanted more. There were not enough interactions between the two for me to believe that they were in love. Also, as in House of Salt and Sorrows, the male love interest is mysterious and possibly the bad guy. I DO like that but I can see it becoming very formulaic if Craig continues to do this in future books.
- Sam is a confusing character. As Ellerie’s twin, he’s literally her other half. We’re told repeatedly that Sam is (or was) a great guy but we never see that. Sam is truly awful from the beginning. I initially assumed it was because of the dark forces in the town but then we find out that nope, that’s just who he is. So, if he used to be a great guy, what happened to make him so awful? He also gets his girlfriend pregnant but refuses to believe the baby is his. When it’s born and looks just like him, he doesn’t seem surprised and in fact, acts like he knew it was his baby the whole time. He then meets an unfortunate end and that’s that on that… very unsatisfying.
The ending of this book was unsatisfying in general. I really feel that this could have been a five star read with just a few minor tweaks. I love the claustrophobic village, the characters, the bees and the writing in general but all of that isn’t enough to make me happy with the ending.
If you’ve made it to the end of this massive review, I hope you enjoyed it. Is this book one you plan to read? I would love to know your thoughts or if you’ve read House of Salt and Sorrows, let me know what you think about it. Thanks for reading and have a great day!