The Toll
From Cherie Priest, the author of The Family Plot and Maplecroft, comes The Toll, a tense, dark, and scary treat for modern fans of the traditionally strange and macabre.State Road 177 runs along the Suwannee River, between Fargo, Georgia, and the Okefenokee Swamp. Drive that route from east to west, and you’ll cross six bridges. Take it from west to east, and you might find seven.But you’d better hope not.Titus and Davina Bell leave their hotel in Fargo for a second honeymoon canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp. But shortly before they reach their destination, they draw up to a halt at the edge of a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car . . .When, much later, a tow-truck arrives, the driver finds Titus lying in the middle of the road, but Davina is nowhere to be found.

The Toll Details

TitleThe Toll
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 9th, 2019
PublisherTor Books
ISBN-139780765378231
Rating
GenreHorror, Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller

The Toll Review

  • carol.
    January 1, 1970
    Loosely billed as 'horror,' I don't think that The Toll earns the genre. With a Southern Gothic atmosphere, it has a dual plot line that only intersects near the end. One story begins with a bored seventeen-year-old boy, Cameron, his elderly witchy godmothers and the restless feeling of wanting change. The other plot surrounds a squabbling honeymooning couple headed to a cabin in the Okefenokee swamp, who experience something surreal as they cross a strange bridge. Because the tone between the t Loosely billed as 'horror,' I don't think that The Toll earns the genre. With a Southern Gothic atmosphere, it has a dual plot line that only intersects near the end. One story begins with a bored seventeen-year-old boy, Cameron, his elderly witchy godmothers and the restless feeling of wanting change. The other plot surrounds a squabbling honeymooning couple headed to a cabin in the Okefenokee swamp, who experience something surreal as they cross a strange bridge. Because the tone between the two stories feels so different, it almost feels like two books in one. I read an advance reader copy, and parts of it still felt like a draft. In fact, in the end notes, Priest notes that it was written around the time of a cross-country move and selling a house, and I can't help but feel quality was sacrificed. Still, it was occasionally diverting. Characterization was decent. Although the cast was often interesting, one of the challenges for me is that they were difficult to care about, as almost all of them were ethically challenged. The honeymooners, Titus and Melissa, are a mess. Cameron, the seventeen year-old, is basically a shallow, developmentally younger boy. The elderly godmothers were the most entertaining, but felt a little to contrived and cryptic at times. Still, they were by far my favorite characters. Dialogue occasionally feels awkward but actually quite real. A quote from Titus:"He had a feeling that much of his forseeable future would be dedicated to keeping his mouth shut. He didn't like how he felt about that feeling."Setting was decent, but didn't really immerse me in the swamp until the last quarter. I had more of a feel for the idiosyncrasies of the town than the swamp. While Titus goes into the general description of the bridges and the water as they approach the reserve, it's more the affection of an alligator fan and casual visitor than a person that knows the biology and plants of the swamp. I've read quite a few mysteries set in swamps that gave me a much better appreciation for the heavy, still air and stagnant pools of algae-crusted water.Many points in the book felt underdeveloped or not well-thought out. At one point, Priest throws in something about Nick in the bar being a ghost. It was a moment of mental whiplash; not that I minded, but suddenly there was this new thing I had to integrate into my understanding of this village. Likewise, Cameron is surprised to learn the object of his crush is actually in her thirties. We've already read how this is a one-horse town; this seems surprising to me when he's lived there for fourteen years. The fact that Priest makes a point of small facts is frustrating as they seem to provide points to catch oneself on instead of enhancing the scenery--somewhat like walking a path with many branches blocking the way. I suppose it added to the atmosphere of strangeness in the town, but mostly it left me a little bit puzzled.Take Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman, cross it with American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett. Change the desert cliffs to deep swamp, throw in squabbling honeymooners instead of a gentle romance, and there you go: The Toll.  Mostly it felt like a lot of ideas jumbled together and needed more development to grow them into something intimidating and ominous. On my diverting read scale, I'd rate it below Mira Grant's Into the Drowning Deep. If you want a good Lovecraft tale, go with Winter Tide or The Ballad of Black Tom.Many thanks to a dear friend for the arc 😊
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  • Eve (Between The Bookends)
    January 1, 1970
    This one was OK. It took me a while to get through it because I kept putting it down. 🙈 The writing itself was good. 👍 The characters interesting. 👍 The plot was OK, but I wanted more. It was repetitive and felt a little underdeveloped. 👎 So yea, not horrible but also nothing to write home about. 😪
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  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    Despite the monstrous something that kills… Despite the weird townspeople who hold fast to secrets…Despite the dark bridge where terrible things happen…I actually found I wanted to live in The Toll’s world. In The Toll, author Cherie Priest brings us a world of magic, gothic horrors, and compelling wonders. From the first chapter I was lost, coming up for air only because I had to work to pay the bills. Each one of our characters, living, dead or other, brings this world to life.The book is high Despite the monstrous something that kills… Despite the weird townspeople who hold fast to secrets…Despite the dark bridge where terrible things happen…I actually found I wanted to live in The Toll’s world. In The Toll, author Cherie Priest brings us a world of magic, gothic horrors, and compelling wonders. From the first chapter I was lost, coming up for air only because I had to work to pay the bills. Each one of our characters, living, dead or other, brings this world to life.The book is highly atmospheric and our mystery simply doesn’t let you go.At the end of it all, I simply wanted more.*ARC Provided via Net Galley
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  • Cillian
    January 1, 1970
    Phantom bridges? Swamps? The south?CHERIE PRIEST?I'm deceased.
  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    You know I put my faith in a shotgun, any day of the week and twice on Sunday - but every girl with an ounce of granny magic knows it's true: Things from other worlds don't like iron.If you're on your way to Staywater, count the bridges and pray there's only six. Because sometimes there's seven - and when that happens, (pardon my French) shit gets really weird.Not that Staywater is normal. There's a house of dolls, ghosts in the bar, and mannequins with their own sense of fashion (but don't test You know I put my faith in a shotgun, any day of the week and twice on Sunday - but every girl with an ounce of granny magic knows it's true: Things from other worlds don't like iron.If you're on your way to Staywater, count the bridges and pray there's only six. Because sometimes there's seven - and when that happens, (pardon my French) shit gets really weird.Not that Staywater is normal. There's a house of dolls, ghosts in the bar, and mannequins with their own sense of fashion (but don't test them by knocking on the glass. They wouldn't like that.). And despite an almost quirky sense of small town in the swamps, everything's just a little bit off, just a little bit wrong, and a lot ominous. This is a short book, and I think it hit an awkward length. As much as I liked the ideas here, they didn't get the attention they deserved - an odd snippet would pop up, intrigue me, and then...never turn out to be important or make it back into the story again. Chekhov's gun in this story would have been a laser pistol that left the stage of it's own volition without firing a shot. But it was definitely creepy, and I love me some quirk. So while it really could be either shortened or lengthened to make it work better for me, I'd opt for lengthened if given the choice, and I hope this location gets revisited in another book.
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  • Bandit
    January 1, 1970
    If I must read southern, it ought to be gothic. Such as this story. And frankly, the immediate premise makes you think Scandinavian, Norwegian specifically, and trolls demanding tolls for the safe pass and so on. But this one is set in the swaps of Georgia and the demanding troll is very much a location appropriate creature. So yeah, a southern gothic creature feature with a small dying off town haunted every so often by something supernatural with only a pair of aging witches to stand in its wa If I must read southern, it ought to be gothic. Such as this story. And frankly, the immediate premise makes you think Scandinavian, Norwegian specifically, and trolls demanding tolls for the safe pass and so on. But this one is set in the swaps of Georgia and the demanding troll is very much a location appropriate creature. So yeah, a southern gothic creature feature with a small dying off town haunted every so often by something supernatural with only a pair of aging witches to stand in its way. But it starts off with a man idiotic enough to presuppose that canoeing a swamp constitutes exciting and romantic honeymooning experience and his new bride grudgingly accompanying him. It sounds like a terrible idea and, sure enough, plays out like one. Crash boom bang (but a quiet sleepy swampy kind) later and now it’s up to the confused and bewildered newlywed to find out what’s going on, which ends up involving a variety of locals to a variety of lethal results. Get ready for a pretty decent body count. Get ready to hit the swamps. Get ready to pay the toll. Good story, properly dark and atmospheric, properly developed characters, sustained suspense and, of course, of course, an awesome creature. Very exciting story, My first read by the author and a terrific introduction as far as those go, I liked the writing very much. Thoroughly entertaining enjoyable read.Probably best to read at night, though effective even during the day. Recommended for all fans of scary things told in a literary manner. Thanks Netgalley.
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  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
    January 1, 1970
    To be reviewed over at Fresh Fiction!
  • Jeri
    January 1, 1970
    Imagine going on your honeymoon to the swamps of Florida and your wife disappears. Not only does she disappear without a trace but this isn't the first time it's happened. This book was dark and creepy, gory in parts but not unnecessarily so. It had a horror-suspense factor to it but it didn't keep me glued to it as much as I had hoped. I was given an eARC by the publisher through NetGalley.
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  • Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
    January 1, 1970
    You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.There’s nothing like finding yourself in the middle of nowhere with no resources at your disposition to re-establish a certain feeling of security in your environment. It is even more tedious when the answers you need aren’t the ones you get. Confronted with the impossible, it is in our nature to grasp onto logical explanations to remain as sane as possible but the more it becomes impossible, the more likely you are to abandon reason and believe You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.There’s nothing like finding yourself in the middle of nowhere with no resources at your disposition to re-establish a certain feeling of security in your environment. It is even more tedious when the answers you need aren’t the ones you get. Confronted with the impossible, it is in our nature to grasp onto logical explanations to remain as sane as possible but the more it becomes impossible, the more likely you are to abandon reason and believe the improbable. Author of The Family Plot and Maplecroft, Cherie Priest delivers a brand-new horror story where nothing seems likely but everything seems possible.What is The Toll about? Titus Bell is off with his wife on an unconventional honeymoon deep in the Okefenokee Swamp cabins with plans of canoeing and camping to cement their love for each other. Despite their reticence, the thrill of escaping their regular city lives to get lost among wild creatures and dangerous vegetation brings them to stumble upon mysteries that were better off left alone. It’s when the road they take to reach the village narrows into a lone and rickety bridge that their lives hit a brick wall and become much more complicated. Upon crossing the bridge, Titus finds himself waking up alone, lying on the ground, with her wife missing, and no answers to appease his soul. It doesn’t help when the bridge he encountered is also inexistent to the knowledge of all.With the story taking place on just a couple of days with the disappearance of the protagonist’s wife as the driving force of the narrative, Cherie Priest does a fantastic job in keeping the reader hooked with surreal intrigue that continuously haunts the reader. While it often feels like nothing is moving forward, there’s always an uncertain sensation that crawls underneath you, giving you the impression that trouble is just hiding within the bushes. How she develops her little town’s atmospheric and dark ambiance helps the reader immerse themselves into the story and quickly establishes the history of the swamps and the story of the suspicious villagers who roam around it.The narrative also lurks from one point of view to another to offer different perspectives on the unfolding of events. This approach allows the reader to understand that the motivations of all the characters aren’t necessarily the same and that there is so much more going on than what the protagonist could grasp. What turned out to be a wonderful surprise was also the character development that went along with each point of view as it solidified the despair and descent into madness of some individuals. It’s by playing around with modern issues lived by humans that the story was able to assert itself within some realism while incorporating the paranormal elements seamlessly into the narrative.The Toll is an atmospheric and thrilling Southern gothic horror story that cleverly reels you into a little village with secrets far more dangerous than the predators of their swamps.Thank you to Raincoast Books and Tor Books for sending me a copy for review!Yours truly,Lashaan | Blogger and Book ReviewerOfficial blog: https://bookidote.com/
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  • Matthew Galloway
    January 1, 1970
    This is one hundred percent my kind of horror. Things are mysterious and unknowable (but not in an annoying way). There's a ton of suspense and creeping dread. Gory grossness is only used when necessary. Plus the whole thing is incredibly character centered.Now I realize I didn't give it a full five stars -- that is not a loss for quality, but rather for preference. There were characters I loved and those I didn't, and some ended up where I'd like and some not. What every one of those characters This is one hundred percent my kind of horror. Things are mysterious and unknowable (but not in an annoying way). There's a ton of suspense and creeping dread. Gory grossness is only used when necessary. Plus the whole thing is incredibly character centered.Now I realize I didn't give it a full five stars -- that is not a loss for quality, but rather for preference. There were characters I loved and those I didn't, and some ended up where I'd like and some not. What every one of those characters felt like was real. Everyone had a flaw or a past to confront -- if they had POV chapters -- and I loved that. To me, the horror only works if I really care about the people in peril and this does that so well.
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  • Reggie
    January 1, 1970
    Cherie Priest writes in her afterward of this book that she felt almost manic in having to meet deadlines with this book, and moving, and having to sell a house. Then she had two different editors. I kind of felt all of that in this book. The premise is okay. There is a bridge that when travelled on, a mysterious presence takes lives as its tolls. It happens near this dying town. That dying town is full of spooky things that have absolutely nothing to do with the story of this book. Just, there Cherie Priest writes in her afterward of this book that she felt almost manic in having to meet deadlines with this book, and moving, and having to sell a house. Then she had two different editors. I kind of felt all of that in this book. The premise is okay. There is a bridge that when travelled on, a mysterious presence takes lives as its tolls. It happens near this dying town. That dying town is full of spooky things that have absolutely nothing to do with the story of this book. Just, there were a lot of interesting parts that didn’t come together to make a good book. The 3 stars was because somewhere along the way I downgraded this book into a bad B movie and it became entertaining for me.
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  • C. S.
    January 1, 1970
    I initially found Priest because of her Clockwork Century series, and I've read pretty much everything else by her since that I could get ahold of and I've never had cause to regret it, least of all with this latest book.The Toll is an amazing story, it practically filled out the copyright and trademark on the word "atmospheric." Priest is such a strong, stylistic writer, I sometimes felt compelled to reread passages because they were just so right, and they just worked so well. The story was al I initially found Priest because of her Clockwork Century series, and I've read pretty much everything else by her since that I could get ahold of and I've never had cause to regret it, least of all with this latest book.The Toll is an amazing story, it practically filled out the copyright and trademark on the word "atmospheric." Priest is such a strong, stylistic writer, I sometimes felt compelled to reread passages because they were just so right, and they just worked so well. The story was also the exact right amount of horrifying and creepy.Other things that I loved were the old ladies' granny magic, especially the knitting magic - and really, everything else about the old ladies - and the fact that Cameron likes to read romance novels.All in all, this book pulled me out of my reading slump, pulled up my grades, and cleared my skin.
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  • Aina
    January 1, 1970
    First of all, I love the cover. What a creepy, inviting image! The book, however, largely disappointed me. The characters are thin and feel stereotypical. Crazy old lady, lonely young man, pretty waitress, bland sheriff - everyone behaved the exact way I expected them to throughout the book. There are parts which felt repetitive - like the husband's search for his missing wife which goes round and round, and a young man's crush on an older woman. The phrase True Love were thrown around to show a First of all, I love the cover. What a creepy, inviting image! The book, however, largely disappointed me. The characters are thin and feel stereotypical. Crazy old lady, lonely young man, pretty waitress, bland sheriff - everyone behaved the exact way I expected them to throughout the book. There are parts which felt repetitive - like the husband's search for his missing wife which goes round and round, and a young man's crush on an older woman. The phrase True Love were thrown around to show a character changing his mind which felt like a shortcut to actual character development.What I liked though is the atmospheric setting of a broken down town surrounded by swamps. The details in the descriptions made me feel as if I was there. Southern gothic horror only works when the setting is right and this book has got it down. There is also the casual mention of ghosts and spells which makes the place feel lived-in, an entirely different world for outsiders. I thought the dialogue is well-written and kept my interest. The ending is bleak but real. I just wish the actual story had been built better.Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.book blog | twitter | instagram
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  • E.
    January 1, 1970
    Unputdownable. I love kickass old women in books--Daisy and Claire are to be treasured.
  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    Mysterious creatures, a supernatural bridge, witches, and ghosts. A good, summer horror story!
  • Jacinda Literature Babe
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan TOR/Forge and Ms Cherie Priest for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "Toll"It's a Southern classic monster story where things go bump in the night. Include with this eccentric characters, and a town with haunted empty stores and you have yourself a scary read for nighttime Willies.Melanie and Titus are on their honeymoon and they have decided to head out to a cabin in the Okefenokee swamps. On the way to their honeymoon cabin retreat they pas Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan TOR/Forge and Ms Cherie Priest for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "Toll"It's a Southern classic monster story where things go bump in the night. Include with this eccentric characters, and a town with haunted empty stores and you have yourself a scary read for nighttime Willies.Melanie and Titus are on their honeymoon and they have decided to head out to a cabin in the Okefenokee swamps. On the way to their honeymoon cabin retreat they pass over seven bridges... but there really should only be six... Let the story begin to haunt you with creepy descriptions of a time of forgotten swampland, where monsters live under bridges and the fight for good vs evil just got started... again, 13 years later.3 stars.#NetGalley #Macmillan#Cheriepriest#southerngothic #Scary
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  • Rebecca Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    Cherie Priest’s The Toll is a Southern Gothic horror with an interesting premise but the plot drags and most of the characters are forgettable. I did not enjoy this book and I would not recommend it. Titus and Melanie Bell are on their honeymoon in the Okefenokee Swamp. While driving across a spooky ancient bridge, Titus loses consciousness. When he later awakens in the middle of the road, Melanie has disappeared into thin air. The local police tell Titus that this bridge doesn’t exist. However, Cherie Priest’s The Toll is a Southern Gothic horror with an interesting premise but the plot drags and most of the characters are forgettable. I did not enjoy this book and I would not recommend it. Titus and Melanie Bell are on their honeymoon in the Okefenokee Swamp. While driving across a spooky ancient bridge, Titus loses consciousness. When he later awakens in the middle of the road, Melanie has disappeared into thin air. The local police tell Titus that this bridge doesn’t exist. However, Titus is determined to find his wife. He goes to the nearby dying town of Staywater where Melanie’s disappearance stirs up memories of a mysterious being connected to the bridge and which takes people every thirteen years. Staywater is a creepy and interesting small town. There is a lot of potential here for really great storylines. I wish Priest spent much more time exploring the town’s mysteries and secrets because this would have made the book much more interesting. The characters are uninteresting, stereotypical, and forgettable. I struggled to connect with or care about them. Many of them, especially Titus and Melanie are stock characters. However, I like the two quirky and feisty cousins, Claire and Daisy. I wish their backstory was much more developed. Their ward Cameron is likable and relatable. He has the potential to be interesting and well-rounded but again, the book falls short. Priest’s writing style is vivid and she creates a wonderfully tense atmosphere. The plot has a lot of promise but it ultimately doesn’t deliver. The strange happenings in the town do not really connect with the storyline of the mysterious disappearances. There are some tense and chilling moments like Cameron’s encounter at the dollhouse as well as all the secrets of the mysterious Hazelhurst house. However, nothing truly significant comes of these things. For the most part, the book plods along. I almost gave up reading at several points because the plot dragged. The first half of the book is extremely slow and repetitive. The ending is ultimately unsatisfying and predictable. The Toll is a Southern Gothic horror with the potential to be really interesting but it just misses the mark. I like Priest’s writing style and I love the creepy town of Staywater. However, I did not like this book and I would not recommend it. Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this book in exchange for an honest review. 🛣️ 🛣️ roads out of 5!
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    To be honest, a cabin holiday in a Florida swamp sounds like a terrible idea for a honeymoon. On their way to the Okenfenokee Swamp, newly-married couple Titus and Davina Bell are already having pesky arguments, mainly about this weird choice of holiday which Titus insisted upon. If only he knew what was coming for them… The Bells are driving across a strange and ancient one-lane bridge when the young husband loses consciousness at the wheel. He wakes up to find himself lying in the middle of th To be honest, a cabin holiday in a Florida swamp sounds like a terrible idea for a honeymoon. On their way to the Okenfenokee Swamp, newly-married couple Titus and Davina Bell are already having pesky arguments, mainly about this weird choice of holiday which Titus insisted upon. If only he knew what was coming for them… The Bells are driving across a strange and ancient one-lane bridge when the young husband loses consciousness at the wheel. He wakes up to find himself lying in the middle of the road. The engine is still running but Davina seems to have disappeared into thin air. The local Police, though sympathetic, sound quite sceptical. But Titus is quite sure that they are keeping something back from him. And he is right. In the nearby town of Staywater, this mysterious disappearance raises disturbing memories of a mysterious being which lives under the bridge: an entity supposedly slain years before by the now elderly cousins Claire and Daisy, but which seems to have returned to extract its toll…The Toll is a fun horror book which taps into several different streams of Southern Gothic. There is the “grotesque” element as represented by the eccentric, if not downright crazy, characters who live in the tiny settlement of Staywater. There is an underlying sense of danger coming from the hostile environment: the treacherous swamps, the roaming giant alligators. But above all, the novel exudes a sense of supernatural dread – it is haunted not only by the presence of the malevolent entity, but also by other weird goings-on such as a house full of possessed dolls, and ghosts who roam the town and chat matter-of-factly with its inhabitants. All these ingredients are moulded into a novel which is, at its best, spine-tinglingly scary. If I must criticise the book, it’s because sometimes it has the feel of an unfinished draft. Some passages of dialogue sound repetitive and could do with some judicious editing. The attempts at humour sometimes fall flat, especially during key set-pieces in the final chapters which would have had greater impact had they been conveyed as unadulterated horror. Several plot elements remain unexplained or unresolved – I kept hoping, for instance, that there would be some backstory concerning the family of Cameron, Claire and Daisy’s ward. Despite these reservations, The Toll remains an interesting and entertaining addition to the Southern Gothic canon. I also feel that its coming-of-age elements (courtesy of Cameron, one of the main – and most likeable - characters) could make it appeal to the YA market as well.http://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/201...
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  • Stacey
    January 1, 1970
    This book was spookishly spectacular!
  • Lynn Williams
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 of 5 starshttps://lynns-books.com/2019/07/15/th...The Toll is a tale of the supernatural full of gothic type goodness set in a swamp where more than alligators live. This is a story of ghosts and hungry creatures waiting in the dark. To be upfront about it – this didn’t scare me, which I think I was expecting after being chilled to the bone by The Family Plot, but, nonetheless it was a good read with an intriguing mystery at its core.We start the story with an introduction to Titus and his w 3.5 of 5 starshttps://lynns-books.com/2019/07/15/th...The Toll is a tale of the supernatural full of gothic type goodness set in a swamp where more than alligators live. This is a story of ghosts and hungry creatures waiting in the dark. To be upfront about it – this didn’t scare me, which I think I was expecting after being chilled to the bone by The Family Plot, but, nonetheless it was a good read with an intriguing mystery at its core.We start the story with an introduction to Titus and his wife Davinia. They’re on their way to honeymoon on the Okenfenokee Swamp – and they’re arguing, chiefly about who had the big idea to go canoeing on a swamp in the first place, it certainly doesn’t sound romantic, then they come across a single lane bridge that looks a little bit menacing. They’re reluctant to cross to say the least. Visibility is poor and the aspect is ominous but eventually they set off, with misgivings. Unfortunately their gut reactions, that were trying to get them to turn back and run, were only too right. Titus wakes up in the middle of the road, the car stands vacant and his wife is missing. Eventually he calls the police who, when they arrive, are adamant that there is no seventh bridge and seem to be taking Titus and his tale with a pinch of salt. Although there is a good degree of eye avoidance suggesting that Titus and his disappearing bridge are already a known element.So, welcome to Staywater, a place where people quite often become trapped. They come for a holiday and stay for life – although it’s more out of necessity than love of the place. This is a place where people are haunted by memories, by missing people and by the strange occurences that everyone just ignores. Staywater is a dying place. The number of residents has been in decline for years – of course persistent floods and whispers of a serial killer could explain some of the ways in which the population have been decimated but deep down everyone knows that something is fundamentally wrong in this place.In terms of the characters. Titus is the main character, he’s joined by a number of the residents, the local barkeep, a young man barely grown into his own moustache called Cameron and his aunts, Claire and Daisy. Claire and Daisy are two old spinsters living out on the edge of the swamp. Everyone fears them, even the ‘thing’ that can’t be named. They have their own brand of magic and I confess that they were my favourite element to the story. One thing about Cherie Priest. She has a wonderful way of drawing a character and making them appear quite easily in your mind’s eye. Alright, she doesn’t really try to avoid any tropes here but there is a lovely, almost tongue-in-cheek style that makes the familiarity seem fresh.In terms of criticisms. It’s difficult to pin down why The Toll didn’t completely blow me away. There are so many elements to this story that are without doubt my cup of tea but there’s a vague feeling of things being incomplete. I want to know more. More about Cameron, about the two cunning aunts and more about Staywater. I think in some respects this almost feels like a short story somehow and yet at over 300 pages that really isn’t the case although it does testify to the quickness of both the read and the pacing. I can’t put my finger on anything specific to be honest. I wouldn’t say this was a scary read and perhaps that was something that I felt the lack of – maybe because I went into the read expecting to be given a serious case of the heebie jeebies. I loved the gothic feel and the whole mystery element but I think in a nutshell this lacked that certain something that would have really given me the chills.On the whole though, well written and enjoyable and certainly a place that I would be curious to read more about.I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    I requested and received a copy for honest review, thanks to Netgalley and the publisherThe story follows multiple perspectives, but it boils down to a split narrative - a less than idyllic couple who are outsiders on their honeymoon to camp in the swampy state park, and the small town (though town is generous, it's not even on the map) residents of Staywater who all have secrets. When things get increasingly strange on their trip, the couple become separated, the police are called, and who do y I requested and received a copy for honest review, thanks to Netgalley and the publisherThe story follows multiple perspectives, but it boils down to a split narrative - a less than idyllic couple who are outsiders on their honeymoon to camp in the swampy state park, and the small town (though town is generous, it's not even on the map) residents of Staywater who all have secrets. When things get increasingly strange on their trip, the couple become separated, the police are called, and who do you think shows up: the Staywater PD. Their town has been plagued with disappearances over the years, floods and unsolved serial killings, but only the townfolk know they happen every 13 years.Cherie Priest is an author I've always had an impression that I would enjoy her books, but never got around to, so I jumped at the incentive to finally dive in. Ultimately, all my assumptions were proven true. The writing is beautiful, the story pulled me right along, and she accomplishes a truly creepy tale without resorting to usual horror hacks - there is minimal gore, no sexual violence, no pet deaths. If you are in for slow, atmospheric horror, this is a delight to read. I'm also not huge on stories in the rural south, but the atmosphere absolutely leaps off the page - from curtains of moss in the swamp to the old ladies rocking on the porch with their knitting - fully immersing you in the settingDo you want to get lost in the swamp?
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  • Stacy Fetters
    January 1, 1970
    "It was a ghost of a shadow, and that made sense, he thought. Everything was a ghost. Everything was a ghost story."The synopsis of this book made me shiver with anticipation (Dr. Frankenfurter style). It just sounded so creepy and I needed to read it. I wish that I wasn't so excited to read this because it was a huge letdown. There were a few times where I was going to dnf this but I stuck it out. What a huge waste of time. Titus and Melanie are on their honeymoon. They recently got married aft "It was a ghost of a shadow, and that made sense, he thought. Everything was a ghost. Everything was a ghost story."The synopsis of this book made me shiver with anticipation (Dr. Frankenfurter style). It just sounded so creepy and I needed to read it. I wish that I wasn't so excited to read this because it was a huge letdown. There were a few times where I was going to dnf this but I stuck it out. What a huge waste of time. Titus and Melanie are on their honeymoon. They recently got married after being an on again/ off again couple. They decided to get hitched and were on their way to the Okefenokee Swamp cabin. They decided to take a longer route to get their so they can bypass going through Florida. Traveling through Florida would mean visiting Melanie's Mom and she didn't want that. But before they reached their destination, they come to a single lane bridge. Something they have never seen before and something they can't see the other side of. They decide to slowly go across this bridge. The haze and the fog grow thicker and their eyes start to have a burning sensation. As soon as Titus closes his eyes, things aren't the same. Titus wakes up in the middle of the road. His car is behind him, the door open, and the keys in the ignition but Melanie is nowhere in sight. She has gone missing and Titus starts to backtrack where he came from. With no luck and panic coursing through his veins, he decides to call the Police. The Police take him into Staywater, so he can stay in town while they search for his wife. But things aren't so normal in this small town. He soon finds out that things aren't what they seem here and people know about the seventh bridge that people disappear from. But no one is talking. Can Titus find out more about this hidden secret and save his wife? Or will Staywater swallow them both whole?Talk about a snooze-fest. The only thing that I liked about this was the synopsis. Everything else was forgettable. The book started off on a good note and crashed pretty quickly after that. The characters were bland and you can't find yourself connecting with any of them. I wouldn't waste my time on something like this. There are so many other horror novels that will scare the pants off of you. The Toll took two days of my life and I would like them back. Never trust the misleading cover. It will only bring you sadness.
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  • Helen White
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy. Cherie Priest has long been a favourite author and this is a return to her earlier novels where the themes are ghosts and monsters. Titus and Melanie are on a decidedly unromantic swamp honeymoon. After much bickering while driving to their cabin they get lost on the road that leads through the swamp and before they know it something very weird has happened. Titus wakes up in the road to find Melanie gone. Missing? Wandered off? Or dead? Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy. Cherie Priest has long been a favourite author and this is a return to her earlier novels where the themes are ghosts and monsters. Titus and Melanie are on a decidedly unromantic swamp honeymoon. After much bickering while driving to their cabin they get lost on the road that leads through the swamp and before they know it something very weird has happened. Titus wakes up in the road to find Melanie gone. Missing? Wandered off? Or dead? The nearest town is Staywater and while it provides some cops to search for Melanie it doesn't provide many logical answers. Titus soon learns from the town crazy lady that there's a monster in the swamp that takes a toll every thirteen years and the people it takes stay gone. The only hope may be two slightly batty old ladies who live just out of town.  Miss Daisy and Miss Claire seen to know a bit about things but they've got their teenage godson to worry about especially when he gets mixed up in things.Priest excels at producing small towns where everything feels creepy or should do. The ghost who sits at the local bar talking to customers should be creepy but instead he's just a hint of how strange the town is. The mannequins at the abandoned store who change their own outfits becomes kind of sweet. It makes the real monster all the more scary and mysterious. This is a classic monster in the woods tale but avoids clichés with enough twists to make it compelling.
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  • Carla (Carla's Book Bits)
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fun read! The Toll is marketed as horror, but I really think this is more of a southern gothic mystery with fantastical and horror elements. It centers around the small town of Staywater, it features a mysterious bridge, ghostly creatures, and a myth surrounding this mysterious town.Regrettably, I never really connected with the characters. However, I love the atmosphere here. The heat & humidity, and the small-town-ness of the setting are really at the forefront. Unfortunately, This was a fun read! The Toll is marketed as horror, but I really think this is more of a southern gothic mystery with fantastical and horror elements. It centers around the small town of Staywater, it features a mysterious bridge, ghostly creatures, and a myth surrounding this mysterious town.Regrettably, I never really connected with the characters. However, I love the atmosphere here. The heat & humidity, and the small-town-ness of the setting are really at the forefront. Unfortunately, I also think this took too long to wrap up and could have done with a tighter edit. But all-in-all, such a fun ride! This is a great one to take for outdoor reading in the summertime!Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for a review.
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  • Damien Angelica Walters
    January 1, 1970
    Fabulously dark and creepy. I loved it!
  • Em
    January 1, 1970
    Eerie (but never overtly scary) contemporary southern gothic with oodles of atmosphere. This book practically sweats.
  • Don Goodrum
    January 1, 1970
    I had never read Cherie Priest when I ordered The Toll, after reading a marketing piece extolling the virtues of it and several other new Southern Gothic novels on the Tor newsletter. Being Southern myself, I'm always cautious; sensitive to two-dimensional portrayals of redneck characters who didn't seem like they'd ever even seen a pair of shoes, much less worn them, but Priest gets it mostly right here, writing about a small town in Florida (and really, Florida is about as un-South as the Sout I had never read Cherie Priest when I ordered The Toll, after reading a marketing piece extolling the virtues of it and several other new Southern Gothic novels on the Tor newsletter. Being Southern myself, I'm always cautious; sensitive to two-dimensional portrayals of redneck characters who didn't seem like they'd ever even seen a pair of shoes, much less worn them, but Priest gets it mostly right here, writing about a small town in Florida (and really, Florida is about as un-South as the South can get) that is visited every thirteen years by a hellish creature who lives inside a ghostly covered bridge (my one complaint is that the bridge calls to mind the covered bridge in N0S4A2, and when was the last time you saw a bridge like that in the South), who lures tourists and other lost souls into it's clutches, just beyond the safety of the light and into the world beyond Highway 177. The action starts pretty quickly with quarreling newlyweds Titus and Melanie Bell, headed into the Okefenokee for a camping honeymoon Melanie never agreed to. Of course, they get lost (they always get lost) and find the bridge, take the bridge and then, bam! Melanie is missing and Titus, for reasons which are never explained, is not. Titus is a fairly tragic figure in this story as Priest does very little to make him likable or laudable in any way. He wants to find his wife, but there's nothing really heroic about him. Thankfully, he's not the hero of our story.In fact, if you define protagonist by how much time you spend with a character, that would be Cameron, the ward of the real heroes of the tale, septugenarian spinsters Daisy and Claire, who apparently killed the monster thirteen years earlier, just not enough to prevent it's ghost from somehow coming back to keep killing folks. As a protagonist, Cameron is fairly ineffectual. He's somehow in the only teenager in his small town, hopelessly in love with Jessie, the much-older local bartender, who has secrets that wind up making her a much less sympathetic character than she originally seems. Cameron is the audience's eyes into this story and when the time comes for explanations, he's the one they're given to, but he's a largely passive hero for the large amount of the word count that gets devoted to him. Cameron was somehow mysteriously delivered to Daisy and Claire's doorstep years earlier and briefly, you think his story might become part of the overall mystery of the piece, but no, not really. Cameron just reacts to the various reveals of the story and becomes involved in the third act climax, only once he's discovered how badly he's screwed up everything else.Which leaves Daisy and Claire, who, as they themselves say on several occasions are "too old" to be saving the world, who thought they took care of this problem when they were thirteen years younger and slightly better equipped. Their work-around to the problems of their age and lack of stamina and mobility is one of the more truly original ideas in the story, but if you're not comfortable with the book's casual, matter-of-fact treatment of ghosts and the supernatural in every day life, this idea may seem a bit too "deus ex machina" for you and fall flat. I liked this book, but I didn't love it. Too many things got set up and never delivered, Cameron is a character who never really got an arc or a chance to shine and Daisy and Claire seemed like they would have been more interesting if Priest had chosen to tell the story of their first encounter with the creature as opposed to this one. Supporting characters like Titus and Dave have beats that get teased, but never developed and Jessie, dear sweet Jessie, never gets the explanation for her actions that we deserve and as for what happens to her at the end, to quote the words of Deadpool himself, "That's just lazy writing."I really wasn't trying to write a negative review when I started this, I swear. There's some really good stuff in The Toll and Priest, is without a doubt a talented writer. It's just that somewhere in all this, was a much better story and a much better book. I wish she'd written it.
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  • Liz (Quirky Cat)
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of The Toll through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The Toll is a dark new fantasy by Cherie Priest. And it truly is a deliciously dark tale. It blends modern horror with more traditional elements, creating something new and horrifying. Set in Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, this novel follows a trail of missing persons. And people do go missing in this town. Every thirteen years – you can count on it. The town may not be a famous one – but if it was, it'd be k I received a copy of The Toll through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The Toll is a dark new fantasy by Cherie Priest. And it truly is a deliciously dark tale. It blends modern horror with more traditional elements, creating something new and horrifying. Set in Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, this novel follows a trail of missing persons. And people do go missing in this town. Every thirteen years – you can count on it. The town may not be a famous one – but if it was, it'd be known for this mystery.(view spoiler)[ Warnings: The Toll is a seriously dark read. That means it goes hand and hand with some darker elements. There are missing persons, implied drownings (though likely this isn't actually the case), murder/suicides, and animal death. Most of these events you can see coming, with one major exception. So just consider yourself warned. The Toll wins the award for darkest novel I've read this year. Well, so far, at least. It's so perfectly bone-chilling. It was terrifying and oddly compelling. And even in the worst moments of the novel, I found myself oddly hopeful, while waiting on bated breath for the next revelation. This tale was told through the use of multiple perspectives. Which was a great call – it let us see more of the world, without necessarily giving us all the answers. A tough balance, but one that was found here. What's interesting is how different all of these perspectives are. First, there's Titus, and yes that really is his name. He's the newcomer, attached to the town by loss and tragedy. Then there are Daisy and Claire. Two elderly cousins, who seem to actually know what's happening – but loathe to admit it. Their godson Cameron isn't on the short list of people that know, but he's got other things on his mind, so he's okay with that. And finally there's Dave. Dave has an odd history with this town. Unfortunately, he's never really gotten the answers he's been looking for. Together this small band of people go up against something truly dark, and very much something other. Whatever it may be, you can be sure that it isn't human. And I for one really enjoyed trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The storytelling style made the gradual buildup to the final confrontation something truly terrifying. It's not that there were jump scares every moment or two. More like it was this lingering sense of foreshadowing. The sense that something horrible was about to happen, and there was nothing to be done about it. I loved every minute of this read; even while it did scare the heck out of me. I was lucky that I finished this one well before bed – I'm not sure I could have slept had that not been the case. Then again, I did read the whole thing in basically one sitting. It was too enthralling to put down. The Toll is the first novel I've read by Cherie Priest. But I loved this one so much that clearly I'm going to have to go back and check out the rest of her works. I hope they're all as intriguing as this tale was. (hide spoiler)]For more reviews check out Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks
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  • Scotti LeeMarie,
    January 1, 1970
    Best enjoyed on a hot, humid day with a cool glass of iced tea and a sense of mystery and a lot of patience.Titus and Melanie Bell are on their way to their honeymoon in the Okefenokee swamp when they reach a strange bridge that is entirely out of place. In trying to cross the bride, something strange occurs and Titus wakes up in the middle of the road and there is no sign of his new bride. With no recollection of what happened beyond the strange trip over the bridge, Titus must stay in the near Best enjoyed on a hot, humid day with a cool glass of iced tea and a sense of mystery and a lot of patience.Titus and Melanie Bell are on their way to their honeymoon in the Okefenokee swamp when they reach a strange bridge that is entirely out of place. In trying to cross the bride, something strange occurs and Titus wakes up in the middle of the road and there is no sign of his new bride. With no recollection of what happened beyond the strange trip over the bridge, Titus must stay in the nearby and strange town of Staywater while the local police try to piece together what might have happened to his wife. However, Titus wants to figure out the strange occurrences that have taken his wife from him as well, and the residents of Staywater know more than what they are telling him.Although the story was alright, there were some spots that were so slow that I really considered DNFing it, but I was determined to know the answer to all the mysteries. The town of Staywater itself was a neatly situated intersection of the supernatural, paranormal, and forgotten, dying backwater town. The characters were interesting and had depth, especially the witchy cousins. There were so many main characters and stories going on at once, though, that at times it was enticing and others it was way too much and it felt like the wrong stories were being focused on. Although I was glad I stuck around to the end and the ‘final showdown,’ it still felt sort of lackluster and unsatisfying to me. Not everything about it was unreadable, though. The best part of the book were the parts with the cousins. I really wanted more of them. Their banter was great, their history was pretty cool, and they reminded me of the mythological Fates from Greece. The town was also very cool, especially the abandoned places and the part of the story regarding the ‘dollhouse’. I felt more could have been done with it. The majority of the other main characters weren’t very likeable and with the exception of Dave, whom I grew to like a lot more as the story progressed. Cameron was mostly a whiney teenager, though I did enjoy his evolution near the end. Titus kind of sucked and I definitely didn’t get the feeling he liked his new wife, let alone cared if she showed back up. It seemed like it was more of an obligation than anything else. I was really hoping he would show more depth and feeling, but by the end I just kind of hoped he would get taken by whatever was controlling the bridge. Ultimately, the real stars of this book are Staywater, Daisy, and Claire. The rest is just background noise. I received an advanced copy from Netgalley and Macmillan TOR/Forge in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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  • Juli Rahel
    January 1, 1970
    I was first intrigued by this novel's premise, the idea of a dark secret hidden in the swamp. Growing up in northern Europe, I am horrible unfamiliar with American swamps so they always sound mystical to me. They also sound like a place where I could absolutely not thrive. So of course I had to explore this Southern Gothic horror novel. Thanks to Tor Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.The Toll starts with Cameron, observing his two god- I was first intrigued by this novel's premise, the idea of a dark secret hidden in the swamp. Growing up in northern Europe, I am horrible unfamiliar with American swamps so they always sound mystical to me. They also sound like a place where I could absolutely not thrive. So of course I had to explore this Southern Gothic horror novel. Thanks to Tor Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.The Toll starts with Cameron, observing his two god-mothers gardening. They're fascinating little women, and he is a very bored teenager. The plot of The Toll starts with Titus and Melanie Bell, fresh off their wedding, heading into the Okefenokee Swamp. Their bickering is just on the wrong side of constant, with some real angry undertones. They drive up to a suspicious bridge and before he knows it, Titus wakes up outside his car, having lost both time and his new wife. The rest of the novel takes place over the following few days as Titus encounters various inhabitants of Staywater in the search of his wife. The storylines of both Cameron and Titus are told alongside each other, but only entwine towards the ends. I would have loved to see more of the swamp, although the novel only truly moved there towards the end of the book. Overall, The Toll is an atmospheric tale that perhaps could have dug a little bit deeper.I hadn't read anything by Cherie Priest before, although The Family Plot is on my list. The Toll is an interesting story but there is a lot going on with it. In general, the characterization is pretty on point. Cameron sounds like a seventeen year old boy, which means that at times he is very self-involved and annoying. His godmothers are lovely old women who are definitely hiding things. At times their sassiness is a little bit too much feeling more contrived than realistic, but I liked them anyway. Titus is a little harder to suss out as he is not really likable. At times the plot feels rushed, with not as much time spent on exploring motivations as just having them go through the steps. SOme really interesting ideas were underdeveloped, which was a shame. Sometimes The Toll really grabbed my attention and at other times I had to focus to stay interested. I wanted to like the novel more than I did, in the end, but there were some undeniably strong moments in this novel. Full review: https://universeinwords.blogspot.com/...
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