Book Review: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Review by Hailey Knoblock

What would you do if you stumbled across a puzzle box that held wonders unknown to man? Would you try to solve it? Or would you push your curiosities aside and leave it alone? 

Frank Cotton, a criminal sadomasochist, has been all over the world and is getting bored with himself and the desires that he indulges himself with. However, Frank stumbles upon Lemarchand’s puzzle box that has been constructed by a master craftsman and is persistent on opening it. Frank expected an insane amount of pleasure to come after opening the box. Instead, Frank got introduced to the Cenobites who are otherworldly beings that understand pleasure as pain and vice versa. Frank opens the box in an old house and the Cenobites come to take him away. A few months later, Frank’s brother Rory and his wife Julia move into the house. Rory thinks that Frank is on vacation somewhere.  However, when Rory accidentally cuts himself and bleeds in the room where Frank summoned the Cenobites, all hell breaks loose. 

I enjoyed reading Julia’s character arc throughout the novel. She first starts off as a passive but beautiful woman who is clearly not in love with her husband anymore. Once she realizes that Rory’s brother Frank never really left the house and is still there, her character changes to a more active role. Female killers always capture my attention and the way she went about picking up men from the bar and bringing them back to her home to kill them was awesome to read about. I feel like a lot of novels don’t go into depth about a female killing someone but Clive Barker gives great detail about the gore. For this novel to be published in 1986, Clive Barker was making bold moves by having one of the main female characters in his novel be a complete savage killer. 

I wish that the novel went more into the Cenobites lore and backstory. The whole story really revolves around Frank and Julia’s love for each other which is cute in a sick and twisted way. However, the film series Hellraiser does the Cenobites justice by expanding their backstory if you are interested in learning more about them. 

If you are interested in reading a book with lots of gore described in detail and a book that has an intense female character, then The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker is the book for you. 

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