Bad Grains (The Order of the Strawberry Circle #1), by Susanne Schmidt

26 Oct 2023

The Book

Bad Grains
Series: The Order of the Strawberry Circle
Pages: 168
Age Group: Middle Grade
Published on 2 Aug 2023
Publisher: Self-Published
Folk Horror
Available on:


Eleven-year-old Jo loves Halloween and all things horror, but she doesn't believe anything bad could ever happen in Fels, her small German hometown. When Hektor, her annoying older brother, disappears on his way home from school, Jo assumes he is playing a prank on her. But then both her father and grandma forget Hektor's name, and his stuff mysteriously disappears from his room.

With the adults of no help whatsoever, Jo starts an investigation of her own, uncovering an old legend that has haunted the children of Fels for centuries. A monster lives in the rye fields, and draws children into its world under the roots. With two days until the gate between their worlds closes, and only Hektor's obnoxious best friend to help her, Jo must figure out a way to rescue her brother, or lose him forever.  

My Review

Bad Grains is a middle grade horror novella, which starts the Order of the Strawberry Circle series, written by Susanne Schmidt. A Halloween story set in Germany, taking inspiration from the European folklore, excellently written, creating a novella that remember to classic tales while exploring a modern days approach.

Eleven-year-old Jo loves Halloween and all things horror, but she never thought anything bad could happen in Fels, her German hometown. When her brother Hektor disappears in the middle of a rye field, she thinks it might just be a heavy prank played on her; but after seeing how her family doesn't seem to remember him, she knows things are going wrong.
As getting help is not probable, she will start an investigation, discovering an ancient legend that has haunted Fels for hundred years; Jo will need all her valour to travel to the world of this creature and rescue her brother and friends from the monster that kidnapped them, before the gate between worlds is closed in two days.

Despite its length, Schmidt manages to develop her characters, especially with Jo, a main character whom is easy to create a bond; brave and determined, curious. She will take an enormous risk to rescue her brother, against the advice of more responsible adults.
The mix between old traditions (the carved turnip, the ancient legends) with the more new Americanized Halloween ones is quite interesting, works quite well, as the author integrates both together smoothly.

The pacing is in a great spot, introducing the characters and the setting quickly to focus on the story; the prose is quite lyrical, but I think it fits perfectly the target audience of this book.

Bad Grains is an excellent novella, a middle grade horror that can be read by almost all the family; a perfect proposal for those looking for a horror with unfamiliar elements. Curious to see how the series will continue in the next books. 

Disclaimer: This novella has been read as part of the SFINCS. This review/rating only represents my personal opinion and it might differ with what the team decides.

The Author/s

Susanne Schmidt

Susanne Schmidt

Susanne Schmidt grew up in Germany and fell in love with the English language reading Harry Potter and the Earthsea Chronicles. She spent a year in New Zealand during High School and later studied in Spain and the US, eventually earning a B.A. in Journalism from Saint Louis University.

She created her first poems in fourth grade, and has been hooked on writing ever since. Currently, she is working on a epic fantasy vampire trilogy, a short and spooky Middle Grade series centered around Germany and German folklore, and a long, epic, genre-blending story about two immortals fighting each other in a brutal reality show.

When she isn't staring down a blank screen, she is learning how to set up a garden, takes care of two spoiled guinea pigs, and watches too much Netflix with her husband.