Ig has his own secrets, it turns out. His long-time girlfriend, Merrin, was murdered exactly a year prior to this black-out, and with his newly-acquired mind reading powers, he discovers that he has been the main suspect in the minds of his friends and family all along.
Part one is especially effective, since Ig’s disorientation is directly in line with the reader’s confusion as characters make confessions that take us all by surprise. We stumble through the first few chapters with Ig as he tries to get a grip on his spiralling-out-of-control life.
His live-in girlfriend stuffs her face with donuts and tells him he blew a guy in the parking lot last night. His parents secretly can’t stand him, and dread his coming around. His frail old grandmother harbors hateful feelings toward him, until now held deep inside. Worst of all, his famous brother Terry actually knows who killed Merrin, but has never told anyone. Until Ig’s new powers start to work on him, that is…
As the story progresses, we are transported back to lost youth, where we get to meet all the characters when they were young, before they become either hateful monsters or dead in the future.
Ig and Merrin have one of those unforgettable meetings and passionate romances that only seem to exist in fiction. Merrin is the kind of girl we all want to have, sweet and caring, with a deep and true love for Ig.
A sort of imaginary love triangle forms between Ig, Merrin, and Lee, an increasingly disturbing character with many secrets.
In the later chapters, Ig comes to embrace his new powers and form. He gleefully experiments with mind-control and his other newly-acquired tricks of the devil. When he decides to just let it happen and fully lets himself become a mischevious demon is when the book is at its best, in my opinion.
Of course, Ig has no choice now. He has somehow been transformed from the caring innocent boy in a treehouse with his girl, into a devil. He hides out in the old foundry where Merrin’s body was found, sulking with a congregation of snakes and brimstone.
He doesn’t want to be the devil, but he is.
Joe Hill has said that the inspiration for this story was to “take an unsympathetic character and see if he can make the reader care about them for a couple hundred pages”. And in that, he is wildly successful.
The character of Ig is an intriguing one, and some of his actions and reactions are the most interesting parts of the book. The question seems to be if you found yourself in this position, what would you do?
If you know the worst in people, could you still forgive them?
Even the author seems unsure.
The devil in Horns seems to be one who still believes in and fights for humanity ( his own and others).
In an afterword, Mr. Hill includes a very contrasting short story called “The Devil on the Staircase”, in which the devil is a very different type of character, one who sees humanity as a punchline to an old dirty joke.
All in all, Horns is a great read, playful and mean at the same time.
Recommended to all you weirdos.
Grade : B+