ARC Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding


“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.


Genre: Mystery-Thriller; Horror

Page count: 304

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3.45 stars actually, rounded down to 3. Explanation: I was expecting too much to feel something in particular that lasted too little. But I am still fond of this though!).

Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review!


me: *gets blankie and stuffed lion* let the horror begin

…25% reading later…

me: okay…what about a spook then?

…the final half of the book…

me: *hugs tight Leo, the stuffed lion* Shh my baby! I won’t let that scary unshowered woman take you away from me!

When I started this book I had very high hopes which is strange because I’ve learned not to have high hopes in life only and just only I have something I can put my finger on. The synopsis had me just like that. The reviews had me just like that. And there I was, standing at 25% of the book and expecting something.

Okay, yeah, I get it, I shouldn’t expect the good shit from only 25% (which is like how much anyway? 76 pages?), but to be honest I am in a point in my life when I don’t need slow readings anymore. I feel murdered. I know I am being absurd, but I WANTED WHAT MY SYNOPSIS PROMISED. And I wanted it on the spot.

But after patiently reading on – man, it might’ve been a click somewhere, because there were several passages when I actually felt a shiver down my spine and I thought oh well, my girl, this is it, it’s going down (and also maybe because I was reading those passages at 1:30 in the middle of the night in general but oh well…).

Spoiler alert: get past 150 or so pages and it’s going to get good.


Why have I felt the urge to read this book?

The synopsis spoke to my inner child.

Yeah, you’ve heard me.

As a child, I was always fascinated by fairy tales and by that I don’t mean the Disney-ish stories that some kids are spoon fed, but the real folkloric tales, as they are told from generation to generation, from mouth to mouth so to say. I remember that once when I was about six or seven or so, I found a very old-looking book through my aunt’s things. It was a big book with a hardcover and some pretty drawings of a beautiful fairy or a princess with a very long, blonde hair and a long dress and a cute crown on her head. The book was full of animated fairy tales, so real that one could believe in them. I was fascinated by that book. I still want to ask my aunt if she still has it. It was a treasure for a child like me back then. I read it from cover to cover without breathing. It was marvellous. 

Those stories, in that book, were Romanian tales as well as tales from different folklores around the world. They were so vivid, so real, so palpable that you could feel yourself being dragged between the pages. Also, they were brutally honest. And I loved it.

I have read the Brother Grimm’s tales, you know, Snow White, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and so many others, but I am proud to say that I read the real stories. The ones that were cruel and brutal and so inadequate for children (from some people’s points of view, not from mine). Reading those stories, I came to realise that those are actually the good ones, not the ones from TV or from those children colour books. And they felt just right in my soul.

(And where did this go? Well, I am a bit twisted, more like a creeper who enjoys weird stories, but this is my nature now, I go to sleep just fine every night. After all, I am Romanian. We love our tales raw).

Now, knowing all that about me, how can a book like that not intrigue me?? Honestly, the little girl with the big colourful fairy tales book just started jumping up and down.

Melanie Golding is a slow storyteller, which for me is a bit annoying. She gets her time, she doesn’t rush things, she wants to settle the reader in the unsettling course of events, building the story brick by brick. Maybe this is one of the things that made me read it so slowly, but I am honestly not saying this as a bad thing. The author knew very well how to install all of us in the atmosphere.

The book is very imaginative in a very common way. Yes, there are tons and tons of retellings about great stories, but I don’t think many people thought of the idea of retelling some gruesome folkloric tales.

The main idea of the book is based on the European myth of the Changeling, an evil fairy who abducts babies and leaves in their place its own creatures. Depending on the folk, the Changeling meets various names such as Wechselbalg in Germany, Niño cambiado in Spain, Skifting in Denmark, Odmieniec in Poland and so on, but all reveal the same myth.

We, in Romania, do not have such a myth but in my experience with other folkloric, pagan beliefs, Germans always seem to stand out with their cruel, gruesome but at the same time accurate tales. People from other westernized cultures might not think it is a good idea to tell your children stories about fairies or elves who abduct babies, but in the German folklore this is not that big of a deal (after all, they are the people who celebrate the Krampus just to have an idea of the amazing things German imagination has created. I purely love them tbh). But so, the Irish are just as fabulous at this kind of tellings! I think it might be the Celtic/Anglo-Saxon influence of belief.

What did the author think, knowing all those things? Hm, it might be some good shit. And it actually was. And still is. Some good material for those who love to feel the chill travelling down the spine.

An excellent book to chill your blood through your veins and to activate your paranoid antennas, Little Darlings by Melanie Golding is a very well-documented and well-written gruesome tale in the real world.

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