Note: This October (and probably November) I’m reviewing scary novels from Book Riot’s list of Horror YA from Women Authors. For more Halloween reading suggestions, click the link!
What it’s about: Clementine DeVore wakes from a magical sleep, tangled in roots in the cellar of her burned out house. She emerges to find a town where normal folk live alongside a minority with strange powers. Sometimes the “crooked folk” are tolerated, sometimes not. Clementine vanished at a time of trouble. Her return may be a harbinger of dangerous days ahead.
Praise: Overall this book is very well written. I especially loved the tone and ambiance. Everything is perfectly creepy and witchy. The magic system is well designed; a creative twist on the familiar elemental magic concept. It has enough consistent rules to create limits and suspense, but enough mysteries to feel otherworldly and powerful. That’s not an easy balance to hit.
One of the most interesting parts of the whole book is that, after Clementine’s slumber, she no longer familiar with her own self. Her own reactions to events often surprise her. That was absolutely fascinating. The side characters were well written as well.
Criticism: I think it should have been longer. When I made that comment about Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods, I meant that it was perfect and I could not make any complaints, beyond wishing it wasn’t read so quickly. I mean something a little different here.
There was a lot to discover about the world of this book. I didn’t just want to skim the basics and get on to the plot. I wanted to be immersed in it. I also wasn’t sure whether the setting was somewhere I should love or hate. There was so much that was toxic about the citizens and their culture, but also glimpses of happier, peaceful times. Was this a good place that needed to be saved from itself, or were the pleasant moments just the honey in the trap? A great climax fell short of its potential because I kept wondering whether I should be afraid the town would be destroyed, or afraid it wouldn’t.
Also, as I said, I liked the characters, some of whom had far too little time. This book sticks strictly to Clementine’s POV. Often fewer perspectives make for a cleaner story, but I think this story was an exception. There were interesting people who I wanted to know more about, and whose perspective on events would have been informative. And in general, there were characters who I liked and wanted to see more of. (Rae! Isola! Davenport!)
Recommended? Those caveats aside, I still think it’s a good sign when the worst thing you can say about a book is that you wanted more of it. So yes, definitely recommended.