New York City, 1990: When you slip through the cracks, no one is there to catch you. Monique learns that the hard way after her girlfriend Donna vanishes without a trace. Only after the disappearances of several other impoverished women does Monique hear the rumors. A taloned monster stalks the city’s underground and snatches victims into the dark.

Donna isn’t missing. She was taken.

To save the woman she loves, Monique must descend deeper than the known underground, into a subterranean world of enigmatic cultists and shadowy creatures. But what she finds looms beyond her wildest fears—a darkness that stretches from the dawn of time and across the stars.

“Hailey Piper’s The Worm and His Kings is haunting and beautiful, heartbreaking and triumphant, a story of harming and healing, of knowing when to hold on and let go. It is a story of transcendence in a way Lovecraft’s work should have been. One of the best cosmic horror novels I’ve read in eons.” —Mary SanGiovanni, author of Thrall, The Hollower, and the Kathy Ryan series

The IndieMuse Review

“We sing the song that pierces the Universe and bring the world to its knees”

An unholy melding of Books of Blood era Clive Barker and the cosmic terrors of H.P. Lovecraft, with a style and vision all her own, Hailey Piper’s The Worm and His Kings is a nightmarish novella that will linger with you long after putting the book down.

Monique’s girlfriend, Donna has gone missing. A life living on the streets is tough enough but, without Donna, it has become unbearable. Rumors of multiple disappearances at the hands of a monstrous figure circulate the homeless population of New York City. It is said the victims are always women and Monique thinks that Donna was taken.

Determined to find her at any cost, Monique’s search will take her into the shadowy underworld of New York, where age-old monsters and dangerous cults proliferate, and rumours of a god known only as The Worm may turn out to be anything but.

When I first started reading The Worm and His Kings it reminded me very strongly of Clive Barker’s classic short story “The Midnight Meat Train”. Cosmetic similarities aside (both set in New York City, where a lot of the action takes place underground, and feature urban legends of something inhuman that inhabits the subway system), Piper shares Barker’s uncanny knack for mixing the brutal and the lyrical that results in a beautifully written book that simultaneously feels seedy yet breathtaking.

It isn’t long, however, until the book morphs into something altogether different. Once Monique’s hunt begins in earnest, things become a lot more surreal and dreamlike. The prose is quite dense and poetic, very much a literary horror book, and the tone works well for such an enthusiastically inventive and bizarre novella. To say the stakes get high as the book progresses would be a massive understatement. It’s Lovecraftian otherworldliness and sense of unfathomable scale are a startling contrast to the all-too down to earth realities of Monique’s situation.

While ageless gods, fanatical cults and otherworldly creatures proliferate, what stayed with me most strongly after reading this book was the depth of Monique’s backstory. Without giving spoilers, details of Monique’s past experiences and current life are deeply upsetting and incredibly tough to read and the reader is not spared at all in this regard. It is a true testament to Piper’s talent that such a strongly developed and rich backstory is afforded to a character is a book of only 114 pages. It feels like a much longer book, in a very good way.

The Worm and His Kings is a twisted, strange and haunting love-letter to the cosmic horror genre. Answers don’t always come easily and some difficult topics are addressed with unflinching honesty but being challenged is a big part of the horror genre’s appeal, and you won’t find another book that delivers something bold and new quite like this one.


Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

2 reviews for THE WORM AND HIS KINGS by Hailey Piper

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  1. Mose Nicoll  

    Top-notch story, with a such a twist of an ending. I will definitely seek out other works from author.

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  2. Cristen Huffer  

    I really enjoyed it. Every time I had to put the book down, I looked forward to picking it up again and getting back into the story. I recommend.

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