There’s something especially exciting about cracking the spine of a book from a writer that’s not just new to you, but also to the world at large. 2022 has been a banner year for horror releases from first-time writers and selecting the very best from the ranks of this year’s debuts was no easy task. The books below illustrate some particularly impressive standouts by writers who are sure to be thrilling and chilling us for years to come!
Without further ado and in no particular order, here are some of the best debut horror novels of the year thus far.
Best Debut Horror Novels of 2022
If you’re looking for a gritty ghost story with a hard-driving metal soundtrack, look no further than White Horse by Erika T. Wurth. Set in Denver, Kari is a dive-bar-haunting metalhead who loves horror novels and is still reeling from her mother’s abandonment when she was an infant. When she starts experiencing disturbing visions of her mother, Kari decides to probe her disappearance but is stymied by her dysfunctional family and her own lingering guilt over the OD death of her best friend. Even when it bends towards the mystical, White Horse never lets the reader forget the true-life horrors of addiction, abuse, and self-destruction.
Curse of the Reaper
Slasher fiction is enjoying a bit of a renaissance lately, thanks in large part to Stephen Graham Jones’ Indian Lake/Lake Witch trilogy and Adam Cesare’s (soon-to-be trilogy) Clown in a Cornfield. Screenwriter Brian McAuley, known for such chilling fare as Dismissed, Nanny Cam, and the “Save the Dates” episode of Fuller House, wades into the fiction game with a Scream-inflected slasher novel about an aging horror icon and the drug-addicted child star who’s been hired to replace him. Part commentary on the way Hollywood chews up and spits out its stars, especially B-movie actors, part thriller, Curse of the Reaper is required reading for slasher fans.
Mary: An Awakening of Terror
In Nat Cassidy’s debut from Tor Nightfire, middle-aged Mary begins experiencing strange and bloody visions after fleeing New York City for her rural Arizona hometown. The ghostly visions and lore regarding a long-dead serial killer are only one form of horror, the other being aging and financial insecurity, ensuring there’s something here to scare even the most jaded horror lover. Without getting into spoilers, this book also makes a fascinating bookend to Stephen King’s Carrie as a character study of a woman at a very different stage of life, which Cassidy expounds upon in his pre-and-postscripts.
Given that the gothic novel is one of the oldest forms of horror fiction going back to The Castle of Otranto, new entries in the genre are always welcome. Set in the early 1800s, shortly after the Mexican War of Independence, The Hacienda concerns a young woman named Beatriz who marries the wealthy Don Rodolfo Solórzano and is taken to live at his estate, Hacienda San Isidro. Don Rodolfo returns to the capital, leaving his new bride to face the strange, hidden terrors of San Isidro alone. Together with an unorthodox priest, Andrés, Beatriz will face the darkness at the heart of the estate.
All the White Spaces
Continuing the trend of historical horror, fans of Dan Simmons’ The Terror will want to stoke the fire and cuddle up in a warm blanket for this thrilling excursion into the Antarctic. Set in 1920, the book follows an expedition to the South Pole in search of a lost group of German explorers and deals with themes of identity and the widespread trauma inflicted on the British psyche by World War 1. What will Jonathan Morgan and the crew of the Fortitude find out in the Antarctic wastes? Find out in All the White Spaces.
Our next entry is not historical fiction, but fiction heavily informed by history, especially history steeped in pain. When grief-stricken Jodi and her best friend break into the Portland Chinese Garden and Ghost Museum to contact the spirit of her dead daughter Ella, they quickly find they may have summoned more ghosts than just Ella. Chinese folklore intertwines with the very real tale of Jodi’s loss, and the things they must confront. Bound Feet is a tragic story of loss and friendship.
Stargazers (My Dark Library #1)
There used to be a Twitter account called @fuckthem00n that would tweet all kinds of ridiculous abuse at, well, the Moon. It seemed like an absurdly clever bit at the time, but perhaps they were just trying to warn us about the Stargazers! L.P. Hernandez conjures up a riveting story of what happens when you stare too long at the moon and stars. Watch society devolve into madness and chaos as one man, Henry Sylva, tries to keep his family safe and his wits intact. What happens when the sky itself turns on you?
Some of the most interesting and boundary-pushing fiction is coming out of the indie publishing world lately, and Winter’s Myths by Gage Greenwood—currently a favorite of the tastemakers in the well-regarded and essential Books of Horror Facebook group—definitely pushes the genre boundaries. Set in a disease-ravaged post-apocalyptic world, Myths is a meditation on the power of storytelling and human resilience.
Honorable Mentions for Best 2022 Horror Debuts
The Doctor’s Demons by Maria Abrams
Black Tide by KC Jones
Jackal by Erin E. Adams
Face the Night by Alan Lastufka
Beulah by Christi Nogle
The Cursed Among Us by John Durgin