Review: The Cruelest Gift In The World By Ed Pauley [Sunday (Thursday) Book Club]

For those of you who are observant, you will notice that today isn’t Sunday – it’s a Thursday! A Sunday Book Club Review on a Thursday? Madness, I hear you say. The reason being that this week’s Book Club Review is another collab!

This is a collaboration with Author: Ed Pauley and Love Books Tours who have provided me a free copy of his first publication: The Cruelest Gift In The World in eBook format, in exchange for an honest review.

In line with ASA (Advertising Standards Agency), this blog post and subsequent social media posts are to be considered an #AD and/or Sponsored Post.

Visit my about page to access my disclaimer policy & contact form for any 3rd party requests.

The Cruelest Gift In The World is a Lovecraftian / Existential Horror written by Ed Pauley, a first time author.

Author Bio:
Ed Pauley grew up and spent the majority of his life in Northampton, located in the midlands of England. Horror and existentialism have always been genres that interested him, so of course, Lovecraft, amongst many others have always been an inspiration. 
Ed currently lives in Cornwall post-university, studying psychology. The Cruellest Gift in the World is his first publication.
Ed Pauley

Lovecraftian horror, can also be known as cosmic horror and is a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the horror of the unknowable and incomprehensible more than gore or other elements of shock. It is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft who’s work emphasized themes of:

  • cosmic dread
  • forbidden and dangerous knowledge
  • madness
  • non-human influences on humanity, religion and superstition
  • fate and inevitability
  • and the risks associated with scientific discoveries

When a man lies awake at night, contemplating the complexities of life, the universe, and his place within it, what if something in the dark heard his restless mind, and answered his questions?
A renowned professor recounts his expedition into the western desert, following a letter sent to him regarding the discovery of an unusual ruin, in which he discovers the truth of what lies beyond.

As The Cruelest Gift In The World is a Lovecraftian horror, there are themes that readers should taken into consideration. Please be warned that there is reference to suicide and character death within this story.

The Cruelest Gift In The World currently averages a rating of 3.24 stars on Goodreads based on 21 ratings and is probably one of my shortest reads as it is only 30-odd pages long. I can imagine for those of you who like to read on the commute to work that a story of this length may seem ideal. For those of you that want to get lost and immerse yourself into the pages of a story, the brevity of The Cruelest Gift In The World may not be such a selling point.

Heaven and Hell are concepts most religions come up with, even reincarnation relies on a karma system. In my mind, if the only thing keeping a man decent is the prospect of divine reward, is he at his core really a good man?

Pg 11

The story is told from the perspective of a unnamed professor living in 1919, England who takes a journey into Egypt with his colleague and, perhaps, friend of sorts: Thomas Doltan to investigate an unknown hieroglyph.

This journey takes them into the desert and even deeper into the unknown.

I managed to finish The Cruelest Gift In The World within an afternoon and found it a pretty easy read despite the dated vocabulary that matched with the character’s perspective.


World-Building 2.5/5

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

There wasn’t much in the way of world-building as the narration is told from the single minded view of the main character who does not care for much other than his own internal thinking. I’m not a massive fan of stories that tell rather than show and for the most part The Cruelest Gift In The World tends to be more on the telling side. Without the character stating the time in which the story takes place there really isn’t much in the way of hints to build the world/time that the narrator is living in.

There is mention of hieroglyphs but there is a distinct lack of description surrounding the hieroglyphs which frustrated me to no end as I felt this was an important plot point and I still have no clue on the visuals. Part of me hoped, and still does, that this was done intentionally by the author but for what reason, I am not sure.

I feel that The Cruelest Gift In The World could have benefited from more descriptions. We, the reader, aren’t told much about our narrator, not even what he looks like and for me, that created a disconnect from the story.

However, I don’t intend to be happy, I never intended to be happy, I intended to make sense of it.

Pg 21

Pace 3.5/5

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pauley has created a story that is brief, but succinct in it’s intention. The Cruelest Gift In The World is a page turner and you will find yourself racing to the end to see just where this story intends to take you.

That being said, I do wish there was more. Perhaps a companion piece from the perspective of Thomas Daltan, the secondary character? I enjoyed the premise of The Cruelest Gift In The World and think that it could do well as duo-logy or even a series of sorts.

I have always felt that despite the bleakness of life, no-one can take the feeling of watching a sunrise from you.

Pg 16

Romance – N/A

Rating: 0 out of 5.

The Cruelest Gift In The World is not a romance and does not have any romantic subplots.

And now a special rating, specific to The Cruelest Gift In The World

Existentialism 3.5/5

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pauley, as a first time author, has created a story that quintessentially Lovecraftian. The Cruelest Gift In The World reflects back to the reader thoughts that we have all had on our existence and our place in the ‘bigger picture’. Pauley selects all of those big questions that have been debated all of human history and uses them to drive his character, and us readers, in circles. Just as a Lovecraftian story should do.

Our existence in the universe didn’t matter to the universe itself

Pg 28

Overall 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Cruelest Gift In The World is a short piece of fiction that can prompt some mental reflection and thinking for readers. I do wish there was more to the story as it could have built up that dread and fear that I was hoping for from a sub-genre of horror. However, that being said I didn’t hate the book and did quite enjoy the concept.

Thank you Ed and Kelly, from Lovebookstours, for sending me a copy; I wish Ed all the best with his future writing!

The Cruelest Gift In The World can be purchased on both kindle and paperback format here.


Em x


As mentioned in my earlier post there is a lot in the pipeline, including a few more collabs with LoveBooksTours – see below for the dates and make sure that you sign up, by entering your email below, to receive a notification when there is a new post!

Up Coming Collabs

1st October
5th October

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