The Ladies of Horror Fiction team is pleased to present the 2020 Ladies of Horror Fiction Award Nominees for Best Debut.
The nominees are:
Beneath the Rising, Premee Mohamed
Catherine House, Elisabeth Thomas
Fairest Flesh, K.P. Kulski
Lakewood, Megan Giddings
The Return, Rachel Harrison
The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson
Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
A coming-of-age story about two kids in the middle of a war of eldritch horrors from outside spacetime…
Nick Prasad and Joanna “Johnny” Chambers have been friends since childhood. She’s rich, white, and a genius; he’s poor, brown, and secretly in love with her.
But when Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens the primal, evil Ancient Ones set on subjugating humanity.
From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they need to trust each other completely to survive…
To learn more about Premee Mohamed, visit Premee Mohamed’s profile in the LOHF Directory.
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
A story about a dangerously curious young undergraduate whose rebelliousness leads her to discover a shocking secret involving an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.
You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .
Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.
For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
To learn more about Elisabeth Thomas, visit Elisabeth Thomas’ profile in the LOHF Directory.
Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski
In 16th century Hungary, Countess Erszébet Báthory commits acts of legendary bloodshed, but she is not working alone, and the reality is worse than anyone dare imagine. Part fairytale, part historical novel, and steeped in an atmosphere of horrific dread, Fairest Flesh is the debut novel from author K.P. Kulski. Lady Báthory by way of Brothers Grimm, a notorious monster is given startling new agency in this stunning novel of brutal power and tragic witchcraft.
To learn more about K.P. Kulski, visit K.P. Kulski’s profile in the LOHF Directory.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.
On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.
The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.
To learn more about Megan Giddings, visit Megan Giddings’ profile in the LOHF Directory.
The Return by Rachel Harrison
An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.
Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.
To learn more about Rachel Harrison, visit Rachel Harrison’s profile in the LOHF Directory.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
To learn more about Alexis Henderson, visit Alexis Henderson’s profile in the LOHF Directory.
The Ladies of Horror Fiction Award winners will be announced later this month!