Pivot, by Author L.C. Barlow, is a paranormal horror fantasy story about life, death, growing up, and feeling trapped in-between.
When I first started this book, I thought the initial chapters were disturbing and uncomfortable, written in the point of view of a seven-year-old with a focus on only one thing: what it feels like for an innocent child to commit an act of murder.
I had to put it down because I was ill-prepared for this level of horror. Thankfully, after I picked it up again, I was relieved to see how much of this eases away. How it was less about murder, which has a bit of a transversal property between life and death in the story, and more about the one teaching murder, the maniacal mentor, Cyrus Hyper.
Cyrus is a man with dark ambitions. He has a mysterious vial capable of reviving the dead and a red velvet box that mysteriously eats away the color of all life. The box also grants him a special ability that makes leaving his cult rather… difficult.
By mid-point, I realized I needed to shift my expectations as this was less of a horror story than it was one about fantasy. What’s great about ‘Pivot’, is that it works, either way, thanks to the authenticity of its lead character, Jack. Her intriguing growth through the traumatic experiences of being raised in a world of death and magic.
Jack is a girl brought into the fold of a cult at the age of seven. She is adopted and raised by Cyrus Harper, a crazed yet cunning mentor with mysterious abilities.
Cyrus uses Jack, along with his extraordinary gifts, to try and achieve his dreams of transcendence.
He homeschools her, along with his son Alex, to be key members of his organization. Jack is personally raised to be Cyrus’ weapon of death, seeing her pivot from murderer to full-on assassin over time, including routine combat training and weapons usage. He teaches Jack not only the art of the kill but also, how to manipulate people and fester the seeds of dependency — all unhealthy lessons to teach a child.
They say novelists need to throw your protagonists through the wringer, and in the ten years the story takes place in, Jack has been through hell, normalized it, and made it her own — all while still preserving that small spark of humanity in the process, I’d like to call: hope.
Jack is a beautifully flawed person. A sentimental character who is comfortable committing terrible acts. Though it eats away at her, and we see it fester in her later addictions. Yet, like all good stories of growth, everything changes. Especially by the book’s midpoint, when a mysterious gift is bestowed upon her.
This is where the story shines and reveals not all is what it seems. Uncovering a type of horror, yet also beauty, from beneath. What’s neat, is that it coincides with the growth between Jack and her relationship with Roland, a somewhat parental figure and fellow Cyrus follower, who is served as Jack’s first murder victim.
Though I’ll let the story explain that one for itself. Which brings me to my next point: the cliffhangers are good in this story. They’re solid conflicts and page-turners, which is nice in a world of creepy murderers and cultish sycophants.
All of this is why ‘Pivot’ is a surprising gem. Initially tense but worth the journey. A story that doesn’t shy away from its lead and how she transcends her traumatic upbringing.
My only negative comment was I couldn’t tell Jack was a girl for the initial chapters. Though I think this was intentional. Also, one character, Alex, has little going on that resolved his storyline for me. Though this might be brought up again in the sequels.
You can purchase a copy of ‘Pivot’ Here
Or read more about author L.C. Barlow below