The Toll

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 y/>State...

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Title:The Toll
Author:Cherie Priest
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Edition Language:English

The Toll Reviews

  • OutlawPoet

    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

    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

  • Bandit

    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.

  • Kimberly

    is only the second novel that I have read by author Cherie Priest, but it definitely put her on my list of "must-read" authors. This Southern Gothic tale was so rich in atmosphere that it was easy to put myself in the place of the characters, and see the way things were through

    eyes.

    We begin with a newly married couple, Titus and Melanie Bell, as they travel State Road 177/>

    is only the second novel that I have read by author Cherie Priest, but it definitely put her on my list of "must-read" authors. This Southern Gothic tale was so rich in atmosphere that it was easy to put myself in the place of the characters, and see the way things were through

    eyes.

    We begin with a newly married couple, Titus and Melanie Bell, as they travel State Road 177, between Fargo, Georgia and the Okefenoke Swamp, on their way to a cottage "honeymoon". When they come upon a single lane bridge that just feels . . .

    . . . the sense of confusion and apprehension are strong enough for the readers to

    .

    Later, Titus inexplicably finds himself in the middle of the road--his new bride nowhere to be found.

    When we reach the small town of Staywater, Georgia, we quickly learn that this place and its residents aren't quite like other areas and people . . . Staywater initially brought to my mind a land "stuck in the past", by the observations we get of people like the old cousins, Daisy and Claire, and the hands-on way they live--planting their own gardens, tending to their own affairs. There is a lot

    in this dying town, but the people there accept it as "normal"--most never having left the town since they arrived.

    Priest does a phenomenal job in showing us this town, where the dead aren't always gone, and a large event that occurs every

    is avoided in conversations as completely as possible.

    An event that causes some to . . .

    . . . forever.

    The only complaint I had with this novel is that after the initial revelations, things slow down too much for my personal taste. Although we are still seeing some of the unique aspects of Staywater through its residents, the larger matter of the "bridge" and what it signifies is only alluded to.

    However, from about two-thirds into the novel on, things begin to escalate dramatically. The cousins are much more forthcoming with their knowledge, and the other characters start taking more action, as opposed to the virtual lethargy that they had spent their lives in thus far.

    At this point, it feels as though the atmosphere has been suitably established, and now the individual people begin to show more

    . I loved the dynamics between many of these personalities--both the ones on good terms, and the ones wary of each other. Comedic banter has always been a favorite of mine in novels, and this became much more prominent here, as well.

    While there is much ambiguity as to the nature of "the thing" causing the periodic vanishings, I felt that it worked well in a story like this one. It helped to maintain that sense of

    and fit in so well with the differences that the entire town of Staywater projected.

    Overall, this story was a perfect fit in the Gothic Horror subgenre. The town and its residents made me feel as though I'd stepped back into another time and place entirely. Although it was a bit too slow for me during the middle, the action really took off during the last third--at which point I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.

    The ending left me completely satisfied, giving my mind free reign to wander on with endless possibilities and emotions.

    Recommended.

  • Luvtoread

    I want to thank Macmillan-Tor/Forge Tor Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book for an unbiased review.

    Dark and Creepy!

    The story begins with a young couple (Titus & Melanie) on their honeymoon headed to the Okefenokee State Park in the deep south of Florida to go camping and canoeing and just relax with one another. After traveling through the swampland and riding over many small bridges, they start to drive over a very narrow and what appears to be

    I want to thank Macmillan-Tor/Forge Tor Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book for an unbiased review.

    Dark and Creepy!

    The story begins with a young couple (Titus & Melanie) on their honeymoon headed to the Okefenokee State Park in the deep south of Florida to go camping and canoeing and just relax with one another. After traveling through the swampland and riding over many small bridges, they start to drive over a very narrow and what appears to be not too sturdy bridge, when suddenly Titus begins to feel lightheaded and very sleepy. The next thing Titus remembers is waking up flat on his back on a paved road several yards away from his car with the doors wide open and Melanie is nowhere to be seen! The mystery and horror will now takes you on a journey that is fun to travel until the end of the book.

    Cherie Priest has told a clever and creepy story that captures the look and feel of the swampland territory and the flavor of the small community of people who live there. This book was very well-written and fun to read. There were several stories woven around Melanie's disappearance which made it become a very spooky and twisted mystery. I enjoyed this novel very much and would gladly read more books by this author!

    I do recommend this book to other horror lovers who enjoy a quirky and fun storyline and I have given this book 4 Creepy🌟🌟🌟🌟Stars!!

  • Steve Wiggins

    “Southern Gothic” on the cover caught my attention. October caught me short-handed on seasonal literature. At one of my favorite independent bookstores I spotted

    and I knew the penalty for not having moody reading in a moody season. I’d not read anything by Cherie Priest before, so this was new territory for me. This is a ghost story, but so much more than just a ghost story. A visitor to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia (you get the vibes from that already) experiences an unexplained traged

    “Southern Gothic” on the cover caught my attention. October caught me short-handed on seasonal literature. At one of my favorite independent bookstores I spotted

    and I knew the penalty for not having moody reading in a moody season. I’d not read anything by Cherie Priest before, so this was new territory for me. This is a ghost story, but so much more than just a ghost story. A visitor to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia (you get the vibes from that already) experiences an unexplained tragedy. His bride has gone missing on their honeymoon. He ends up in the dying town of Staywater where some people know more about this than they’re saying.

    The titular toll refers to a bridge that sometimes appears on the road into the swamp. It’s not really a bridge, but there is a very real toll to pay. In addition to the ghosts, Priest crafts a monster not terribly well defined—or clearly described—that exacts said toll. The locals know that this happens every thirteen years, but they live with it. Victims can be locals or outsiders. A couple of elderly female cousins, however, who have a bit of hoodoo about them, know what to do. They have to protect their godson and, one senses, the future of the town.

    Vividly drawn with interesting characters who have unexplained backstories,

    isn’t necessarily a horror story associated with Halloween. It’s fairly gentle until near the end, and it builds a slow burn while leaving many things unexplained. There’s plentiful mystery, some supernatural elements, and some humor. And more than a little bit of small-town life. There’s also a body count. While it didn’t have me leaping out of my seat in terror, it kept me curious up to, and even after, the end. From a small town myself, I understood, I think, the moral of the story. I wrote a bit more about it here:

    .

  • Joseph

    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 they 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

    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 they 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.

  • Eve (Between The Bookends)

    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. 😪

  • Cillian

    Phantom bridges? Swamps? The south?

    CHERIE PRIEST?

    I'm deceased.

  • Fiona

    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

    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.

  • carol.

    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

    by Alice Hoffman, cross it with

    by Robert Jackson Bennett. Change the desert cliffs to deep swamp, throw in squabbling honeymooners instead of a gentle romance, and there you go:

      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

    If you want a good Lovecraft tale, go with

    or

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