Literature / Hemlock Grove

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Hemlock Grove book cover

Hemlock Grove is a novel by Brian McGreevy. It was released in March, 2012.

The story starts when a young girl is brutally murdered and found near the former Godfrey Steel Mill. Amid mounting rumors, two of the suspects in her killing — Peter Rumancek, a 17-year-old Gypsynote  trailer-trash kid rumored to be a werewolf, and Roman Godfrey (heir to the Godfrey estate) — decide to find the killer themselves.

Hemlock Grove is the first of a planned trilogy.

In January 2013, Netflix announced it would be adapting the novel into an original series, produced by Eli Roth. Roth also directed the pilot episode. All episodes of the series were made available on Netflix Streaming in April 2013. On April 14th, 2014, a second season was announced.


The book contains the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The abandoned Godfrey Steel Mill is an important location.
  • Adult Fear: Since all of the victims were high school girls, everyone with a child was appropriately worried.
  • The Alcoholic: Chasseur had been so before and gotten sober, but the stress of the vargulf's attacks had driven her back to her old ways.
  • Always Identical Twins: Alexa and Alyssa Sworn.
  • An Axe to Grind: Olivia's gift to Roman.
  • Angry Mob: Towards the end of the season, the town is whipped into a frenzy against Peter.
  • Anyone Can Die:
  • Arc Words: "Today I have seen the dragon."
  • Auto Cannibalism: Werewolves eat the flesh and skin they lose after turning.
  • Batman Gambit: When Olivia reveals the truth about their family's powers to him, Roman chooses to kill himself rather than complete the transformation into a full Upir... But this is exactly what CAUSES the transformation and exactly what Olivia planned.
  • Bedlam House: Averted in the case of Norman's hospital, although patients can still meet grisly ends.
  • Beef Bandage: Peter has one after bullies beat the crap out of him.
  • Big Little Brother: Sister, actually.
  • Blood Lust: Both Roman and Olivia seems to have this.
  • Blood Magic: The cat's unfortunate fate.
  • Body Horror: A large part of Peter's transformation scene.
  • Break the Cutie: Christina, Peter, Shelley. Roman is more of a Break the Haughty type until after his coma.
  • Canis Major: The vargulf is described as being at eye level to its (standing, human) victims and is at least three times the size of a normal wolf.
  • Catchphrase
    • "I'm a novelist."
    • "SHEE-it."
  • Convenient Coma: Roman is in one for a while.
  • Cool Car: J.R.'s and later Roman's car.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Roman over Letha.
  • Creepy Child: Christina.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All of the vargulf's victims were disemboweled and torn in half.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Quoted by Roman, although it really did look like a shaving cut. Chasseur sees right through it.
  • Cute and Psycho: Christina.
  • Cute Mute: Shelley.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Peter.
  • Death by Childbirth: Letha.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Letha dies when giving birth to her baby, thereby ending the relationship between Peter and Letha for good.
  • Disappeared Dad: Neither Peter nor Roman have a father. Except Norman is Roman's father, and has been largely serving in a version of that role for him and his sister.
  • Disease Bleach: Christina's hair gradually goes white after her encounter with the vargulf's victim. Unrealistically portrayed unless losing her hair color was her price for turning against the moon.
  • Disposable Woman: The vargulf targets young women. See Men Are the Expendable Gender below.
  • Driven to Suicide: J.R. Godfrey.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Ironically enough, it isn't about Roman. Christina planted one on Peter while he was asleep.
  • Eaten Alive: The vargulf's victims; it avoids vital organs, only eating body fat to prolong the terror.
  • Evil All Along: Christina.
  • Evil Matriarch: Roman's mother is very much on of these.
  • Facial Horror: Peter wasn't kidding when he said he had to sacrifice his human face.
  • Foil: The Rumanceks and the Godfreys, both mothers and sons.
  • Friendless Background: Neither Roman nor Peter had friends before they met each other.
  • Functional Addict: Roman smokes, drinks, snorts cocaine, self-mutilates and still manages to make it through the day until he flies off the handle and ends up in a coma.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Most of the deaths happen off screen.
  • Grave Robbing: Done by the boys to get material for Destiny.
  • Green Eyes: Members of the Godfrey family have green eyes.
  • Hands-Off Parenting / Hippie Parents: Many young characters have one or a mix of these.
  • Harmful to Minors: Peter had to slice off his dead grandfather's head with a sword and Roman saw his father's corpse on the living room floor.
  • Healing Factor: Only happens when a werewolf has to basically regenerate his or her entire body. Otherwise, they heal and feel pain just like normal people do.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Several characters fall into this after loved ones die.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Quite a few.
  • Important Haircut: Peter in the finale.
  • Incest Is Relative: Roman and Letha.
  • Incest Subtext: Olivia's a little too touchy-feely with her son, Roman.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted.
    • Shelley dies in infancy and is resurrected/reconstructed.
    • Even Peter's cat wasn't safe from death. He's forced to kill his pet in order to speak to his dead grandfather for advice on how to kill the vargulf.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: In the novel, Roman uses something similar (the extaz) to influence people and get himself out of trouble. Olivia, too.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roman, pre-coma.
  • Karma Houdini: Roman snapped and raped a girl but because of his ability, nobody ever found out about it.
  • Kick the Dog: From Christina to Chief Tom Sworn, when both Alexa and Alyssa are both mutilated/murdered horribly by the vargulf, considering Chief Tom Sworn was always so kind to the murderer.
  • Kill the Cutie: Several times, but Letha stands out as the most prominent example.
  • Kissing Cousins: Implied in the novel and the show. Until it's revealed that Roman and Letha are half-siblings and that Roman is the father of Letha's baby.
  • Knight Templar:
    • Chasseur and the rest of her Order.
    • Sheriff Sworn becomes this after his daughters are killed.
  • Lack of Empathy: Olivia from the very beginning. Christina, too.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Roman. Shelley also could count.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Destiny: Can tell the future.
    • Peter the Werewolf calls to mind "Peter and the Wolf".
    • Shelley seems to reference Mary Shelley, since Shelley the child is a Frankenstein's Monster-like resurrection/creation of Olivia's dead daughter.
    • The last name Rumancek translates to "Chamomile". There's a particular kind of chamomile known as Roman Chamomile. This implies that there's some sort of familial relationship between the Rumancek and Godfrey families. It's confirmed in the novel that Roman's mother Olivia gave birth to a child that was given to the Rumanceks to raise.
    • Letha is in Greek mythology, "The river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers in Hades." and "A condition of forgetfulness; oblivion."
    • GOD-frey, just as Norman's wife says, "Godfreys get what they want" when asked how she and Norman got together.
    • Chasseur means "hunter" in French.
    • The man who claims to have died and been brought back to life is named Pullman.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Inverted. There are only two male characters that die, and JR's death happens in a flashback.
  • Mercy Kill: Averted:
    • In a flashback, Peter finds a group of upirs torturing a dying fox but is too terrified to put it out of its misery.
    • Roman gets a few chances to kill Christina cleanly before she transforms, but can't bring himself to do it.
  • Motifs: "You must make your heart steel/become stronger", Olivia ONLY wears white (Letha also wears white a lot)
  • Mind Manipulation: Roman can't read minds, but he can implant suggestions and make people forget recent events.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Shelley is treated like shit by the kids at school but is as kind as she is quiet.
  • My Beloved Smother: Olivia's on the completely disturbing end of the scale.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Letha.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Christina. She turned herself into a werewolf so she could "have experiences."
  • Nipple and Dimed: Hugely averted.
  • No Pregger Sex: Averted when Peter and Letha hook up.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Norman once tightened Olivia's corset after a routine hookup.
  • Odd Friendship: Roman and Peter.
  • Older Than They Look: Olivia was a child a very long time ago.
  • Only Sane Man: Peter.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Peter's grandfather was the seventh son of a seventh son, meaning Peter is a werewolf through heredity.
    • Christina became a werewolf by choice and through drinking water from Peter's paw print.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Based on Slavic mythology the Upir are immortals indistinguishable from humans.
    • Being Upir is genetic but ultimate transformation seems to be triggered by a successful suicide and then feeding on someone.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: Roman and Peter aren't exactly anxious, but cigars are involved.
  • Papa Wolf: Norman is one to Letha.
  • Painful Transformation: Going from human to werewolf is not a pleasant sequence.
  • Police Brutality: Sheriff Sworn shot Shelley twice from behind with no warning.
  • Police Are Useless: Naturally.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: While less common in America than in Eastern Europe, Olivia has strong opinions against the Romani.
  • Romani: Peter and his family.
  • Rustproof Blood: Averted in the book.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Chasseur.
  • Self-Harm: Roman is shown cutting himself with a razor blade several times. In his case, it starts because he likes blood.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The way Shelley's emails seem. In this case it is unlikely that the character is trying to show off or be perceived as unusually smart, rather she's taking full advantage of the medium of writing to communicate in a way that is normally impossible for her because of her muteness.
  • Shell-Shock Silence:
    • Roman could only stare while Peter and Christina fought.
    • Peter was completely still when they found out Letha had died.
  • Sherlock Scan: Chasseur does this to Roman, though she keeps her conclusions to herself.
  • Shoot the Dog: What Peter had to do to his cat.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Shelley.
  • Smoking Is Cool / Smoking Is Glamorous: There are more characters that smoke than there are that don't. Roman practically goes through a pack per scene.
  • Snobs Versus Slobs: Roman and Peter's families.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Christina kisses Peter in his sleep, becomes a werewolf to be closer to him, and even leaves him the "bigger half" of her kills. How...thoughtful.
  • Super OCD: Roman can't step on sidewalk cracks, is terrified of prime numbers, always unties knots, and can't sleep unless he knows that every drawer and cupboard in his mansion is closed. At one point he holds up a checkout line at Wal-Mart "blinking back tears of desperation" because he needs to get exact change from the cashier.
  • Super Strength: Dr. Pryce, as induced by overactive adrenal glands. He broke out of his incubator as a premature infant.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Roman. This is lampshaded by Destiny.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The cruel schoolkids who harass and mock Peter, Roman, and especially Shelley.
    • Christina, literally.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Alyssa and Alexa.
  • There Are No Psychologists: Somewhat subverted; Norman is a successful and empathetic doctor. However, all the patients we've seen him personally treat have ended up dead. He sleeps with Olivia for the first time when she visits him professionally, too.
  • Transformation Sequence: Werewolves have extremely gruesome ones.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Poor Roman.
  • True Companions: Roman and Peter. They do have their fights, but will pull through for each other.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Chasseur is both black and a lesbian.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Order.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Olivia and Norman have been cheating with each other for years. J.R. was well aware of it before he shot himself.

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