Review: Daphne by Josh Malerman

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It’s the last summer for Kit Lamb: The last summer before college. The last summer with her high school basketball team, and with Dana, her best friend. The last summer before her life begins.

But the night before the big game, one of the players tells a ghost story about Daphne, a girl who went to their school many years ago and died under mysterious circumstances. Some say she was murdered, others that she died by her own hand. And some say that Daphne is a murderer herself. They also say that Daphne is still out there, obsessed with revenge, and will appear to kill again anytime someone thinks about her.

After Kit hears the story, her teammates vanish, one by one, and Kit begins to suspect that the stories about Daphne are real . . . and to fear that her own mind is conjuring the killer. Now it’s a race against time as Kit searches for the truth behind the legend and learns to face her own fears—before the summer of her life becomes the last summer of her life.

Mixing a nostalgic coming-of-age story and an instantly iconic female villain with an innovative new vision of classic horror, Daphne is an unforgettable thriller as only Josh Malerman could imagine it.


Daphne, the newest novel by Josh Malerman and the first novel after the reissues of Goblin and Pearl, starts with Kit Lamb at the free throw line to win the basketball championship. This is the beginning of the summer before she goes to college so this is the culmination of her high school basketball career. She has her routine and does a simple superstitious thing that all of her teammates do during free throw practice: ask the basketball goal a Yes or No question. In this case, Kit asks, “Is Daphne going to kill me?” The answer is a game winning free throw. Kit had only heard about Daphne the night before when the team was having a sleepover and trying to tell stories to scare one another. Daphne is a town haunt, supposed to be over 7 feet tall, smelling like smoke and whiskey, and killing anyone who thinks about her for revenge. This description has stuck in Kit Lamb’s head, and the legend of Daphne comes to town after this game, after this winning shot, and Kit thinks Daphne’s return has everything to do with her and her basketball team. 

The first half of this novel starts slow, setting up a much better second half. There are times when I was reading the first half and wondering how much setup we need to go into the second half. This novel seemed to be wandering around, trying to figure out where it wanted to go. The second half brings everything together, and honestly we are rewarded for our patience. Malerman uses Daphne as a metaphor for the changes in Kit Lamb’s life, which is filled with uncertainty, a large amount of anxiety and fear. We do not know if some of this anxiety is what manifests Daphne or if Daphne is what manifests the heightened anxiety.

Daphne is not a flawless novel. There are questions that are not answered and scenes that do not make much sense to the rest of the novel. I think about this like many classic horror films, because so many of them are not perfect but they are so beloved. Horror enthusiasts find so much merit in stories even if there are many stories that take much longer to develop than they should. Horror in general is not perfect. Whether it be Jason and Michael Myers always returning from the dead, to giallo movies as a whole, to the bloated novels of Stephen King, most is not perfect, there are things that do not make sense, things that do not add up, but horror fans love horror regardless. Daphne is one of those horror stories. Despite it’s problems, Daphne is a great horror novel, and definitely worth reading. 

I received this novel as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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