‘S.T.A.G.S.’ by M. A. Bennett
Published: 10th August 2017
Format: Paperback, 290 pages
Synopsis:It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered. But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…
The only character I liked was Shafeen and I did not get enough of him at all. Don’t get me wrong, I got why he wasn’t the main protagonist and it worked well with Greer (also, what kind of a name is that?) and I found she had the right amount of courage to get through the weekend. Getting onto the plot, I liked the general idea of a cult in a boarding school and there is a certain level of appeal.
I can see what Bennett tried to do with this book; it was meant to be an almost thriller, a mystery that kept you on your toes until a big reveal at the end. However, it fell a little short for me and felt quite flat. Perhaps because we see so many films that have a similar essence to them but it was just too much ‘been there, done that’ for me. I think, if an author is going to try their hand at this sort of genre, they need to have a concrete plot and it needs to be written in a way that invokes fear. I also found that there was a fair amount of ‘filler’ in this book. Things were mentioned to know doubt give you a sense of the character but it literally did nothing for me.
Another thing that really irritated me was how the paragraphs were so loooooong. I didn’t realise I was reading a bloody essay (no pun intended). Honest to god, there was a page in the book that had NO BREAK. I pride myself on my reading and I’m pretty good at keeping momentum in a story but it was such a mission with this book.
Ultimately it could have been a really good book but it just fell short on the execution.
“The hunter…became the hunted,” she translated haltingly. “The hounds…were struck with a wolf’s frenzy…and tore him to pieces as they would a stag.”
You can get your copy here