'The Bone Fire' by György Dragomán is a tale set in an unnamed Eastern European city, in a country where their oppressive regime has recently been toppled. After the loss of her parents to a car accident, a young girl named Emma ends up living in an orphanage until she's adopted by a grandmother she doesn't know.
Bitterly divided by the revolution, Emma begins to learn the ways of her new grandmother who can read fortunes, heal or inflict pain, and more. Though she uses magic in her day-to-day life and the ghost of her dead husband still resides at home, these aren't the main reasons she's treated with suspicion and contempt by the townspeople. They believe her and her husband to be traitorous informers.
This story is a mixture of magical realism and sort of a modern Jacobin novel. While the story is wrapped in what feels like an old fairy tale, it strives to discuss some very heavy topics. Though they can easily be applied to certain things going on right now, the author has given them some distance by writing it as if it's taking place 40 years ago or so.
Though there isn't a lot of plot here, I don't feel like that's the point. Instead, Dragomán allows us to experience the lives of these characters unfettered by jumping them through hoops to get to a specific point, which is not to say their lives are uneventful. In fact, there are some extremely memorable moments throughout the book that seem to help define the world they live in while shaping their world view.
Centered in and around the fall of the Communist rule of Transylvania, the author spends most of his time focusing on the changes brought about by the revolution and the fall itself, without ever calling direct attention to the area.
If there was ever a book that was a structural parallel to Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is it. Painted in a stiff prose that feels both representative of the cooler Eastern European language style and the rather harsh setting the characters live within, the book moves slowly through the day-to-day. There's no glossing over the more mundane details to hurry to a plot point or steer the narrative. Those details seem to actually be the narrative.
While that style is not for me, it's hard not to admire the patience and artistry within these pages.
On a side note, some of the witchy scenes are really fun and carry a sense of dark connotation that I genuinely enjoyed. My favorite was actually early in the novel with some musicians, while Emma and her grandmother were on the train bound for home.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'BLOODSWORN' blog tour brought to you by TBR AND BEYOND TOURS, RANDOM HOUSE CHILDREN'S/CROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS, and SCOTT REINTGEN!
Bloodsworn (Ashlords #2)
Random House Children's / Crown Books for Young Readers
February 16th, 2021
Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes.
The Races are over. War has begun.
Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death.
Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods.
Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (5/5 stars)
'Bloodsworn' by Scott Reintgen is book two in the Ashlords duology, a story about the war between three cultures and their rise against the gods themselves.
Struggling for control of the Empire, the two strongest factions.. the Ashlords and the Longhands strike each other's strongholds in a life or death game of chess, while the Dividian rebels are just trying to survive the collisions.
Three leaders, Adrian.. Pippa.. and Imelda, emerged from the Races with changed perspectives and a lot of questions. As they unearth the truth of their origins, it becomes apparent that the hatred which drives them to war.. begins with the gods.
Though the details of the rise and fall of their people are secreted away, one dissatisfied god shows a willingness to share the history of their roots. With every sign leading back to the underworld.. how far must they go to learn what the gods don't want them to know?
I don't know why I wasn't moved to pick up 'Ashlords' last year when it was released. Looking back and glancing over the synopsis again, I can only say that the synopsis leaned heavily into the phoenix horses.. without really giving me a reason to care about the Races themselves.. and the comparisons given were books I wasn't familiar with. Books I still haven't read, if I'm being honest. Though.. if they're anything like this.. that's going to need to change.
Since I hadn't read book one when I began this title, the early pages for me were spent getting my bearings in their world. Immediately the story felt immense to me. I don't mean to say it felt long or particularly dense. It's that there was a weightiness to what was being delivered that made this story feel uniquely important.
Told through a constantly shifting multiple POV narrative, the result is a story that feels almost as if it's being told in concentric circles.. starting from the outermost ring and rippling ever inward. Of course, in reality.. it's the tale of three fated paths set on a trajectory toward one final explosive point of battle.
Initially, I started out kind of coolly distant from the characters, I quickly became devoted to each group's story. The three leaders only seem to want good things for their people, with most under the impression the others are deserving of distrust and hatred. But the truth is never as simple as we think it is and that's certainly not the case here.
There are a lot of pieces on the proverbial board in this fast-moving, page-turning story of what could be redemption for someone.. only if everything falls into place. I found myself deeply attached to members of each group of soldiers, which left me in a perpetual state of worry for their safety.
Reintgen's world-building is top notch. Where many might struggle to flesh out a detailed fantasy setting so clear the reader can see it in the mind's eye.. this author flexed on us by doing it twice in the same book. Each world and likewise, each character he focuses on within those places, distinctive enough we could pick them out with just a few words.
The phoenix horses themselves, sound so much simpler than they really are.. and it's this magic especially that I loved as I came to understand how they work. Just as with the world and character development, the magic system is richly layered. Between the source of the power and the way it's used, creating magical sub-structures, I feel like he accomplished in (for me.. one book).. what might take a less skilled writer.. a several book series.
Do yourself a favor and read these books. If you don't, like me.. you'll be kicking yourself later.
About the Author:
Scott Reintgen is an author of science fiction and fantasy books. He wrote the Nyxia trilogy, as well as Saving Fable, Escaping Ordinary (Fall 2020), Ashlords and Bloodsworn (2021). He began his career as an English and Creative Writing teacher in North Carolina. He strongly believes that every student who steps into the classroom deserves to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page. It’s his hope to encourage a future full of diverse writers. He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife Katie and his two boys, Henry and Thomas.
Continue below to read my review of the book, the synopsis, purchase links, and author info! Be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops for 'THE GOLDEN FLAME' blog tour brought to you by TBR AND BEYOND TOURS, HODDER & STOUGHTON, and EMILY VICTORIA!
This Golden Flame
Hodder & Stoughton
February 2nd, 2021
Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.
In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.
Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4/5 stars)
'This Golden Flame,' the debut novel from Emily Victoria, is a tale of rebellion amongst the almost single-minded determination of the Scriptorium.
Eager to unlock the magic of an ancient automaton army littered throughout the land of Eratia, they're quick to send away those who may get in their way. For Karis, that means her brother is long gone.. and she'll do anything to find him.
While seeking her brother.. Matthias' whereabouts, she awakens a hidden automaton. Seeming to have sentient intelligence, Alix seems to have a moral compass.. but no idea why he was created or why his father once tried to destroy them all.
Suddenly, control isn't enough for the Scriptorium. They're on the hunt. Leaving Karis and Alix to find her brother and the secret surrounding the automatons.
I found it interesting that though the lead is just trying to find her brother, for the most part.. she's kind of outcast.. even by the others like her. Though, Dane is actually really lovely. Karis is a bit of a screw-up, but her heart is in the right place and I love that sense of loyalty within her and it's nice to see the Aroace rep in a fantasy MC. It feels like little by little our stories are becoming a bit more diverse.. too slowly.. yes.. but I'll take the forward progress.
Alix has a lot of inner-conflict to deal with, largely due a lack of coherent memories and it doesn't help that those in power want to leverage him. He's a darling though.. despite having a lot of baggage and I found myself forgetting that he was really different in the first place, as automaton or not.. he felt so vulnerably human in some ways.
Like many, the magic system was rune based and I always enjoy magic that requires some kind of tangible focal point. What I found interesting was that it wasn't just about the result either, the process of making the rune mattered.
Though the Scriptorium thing very reminiscent of the Magisterium for me, they were similar.. but still different. The general feeling of oppression was there, though the scribes weren't just members benefitting from their participation.
Emily does a great job of letting the reader experience the world around them, rather than just telling them everything.. which is something I appreciate. There's nothing that can ruin immersion faster for me than being given a tour like the story is more of a verbal open house.
It is a fairly simple story that's easy to read and maybe lacking a little in the complexity department, but not every book has to be an epic 800 page story either. It's very enjoyable and a good first showing for an author with a promising future.
About the Author:
Emily Victoria is a Canadian prairie girl who writes young adult science fiction and fantasy. When not word-smithing, she likes walking her over-excitable dog, drinking far too much tea, and crocheting things she no longer has the space to store.
Giveaway (US Only):
One winner will receive a signed finished copy of This Golden Flame and some swag. The giveaway starts on February 15th and ends on February 22nd.
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Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'WE ARE THE FIRE' blog tour brought to you by SWOON READS / MACMILLAN CHILDREN'S PUBLISHING GROUP, SAM TAYLOR, and XPRESSO TOURS!
"Rebel with flame.. and you die by flame. We are watching."
'We Are the Fire' is the fantasy debut novel by Sam Taylor that tells the story of Pran and Oksana, two of the emperor's Tuliikobrets, magical fire-wielding soldiers. Taken from families across his kingdom by force, children are forced to undergo horrific transformative procedures and pressed into the army's service to carry out the emperor's will.
Both have dreams beyond the walls of the Tuliikobrets' fort. Oksana dreams of going home to her family and their peaceful way of life, while Pran's more inclined toward rebellion.. destruction of the empire and control of their own futures.
As different as their dreams, so too are their methods and ideals. Though they really just want freedom for their kind, it doesn't take long for both to realize their good intentions may require them to make choices that conflict with their principles if they're going to survive at all.
Ironically, the transformative procedures are horrible, but entirely different than I would have expected. Worse in some ways, as the changes wrought upon the soldiers are not all things they can completely adapt to, since their very human bodies aren't really designed for using their newfound abilities.
The opening pages are the quiet calm before the storm, giving the reader a chance to warm up to Pran and Oksana before any of the chaos breaks through. And it's time that I think really served their story well. It isn't slow or drawn out, but it allowed me to connect with them in a more intimate setting and begin to care from the start.
For the most part, there's a deep sense of loyalty that has developed amongst Pran, Oksana, and their friends. Perhaps because conflict and tensions seem to be deliberately stoked between the different ranks within the army, the trust outside their immediate circle is much harder to come by and obviously that makes their goals more difficult. Those with the most power, may also have the most to lose by rebelling, but strength in numbers and cunning are both necessities if their kind are ever to be free.
Treacherous statements to the wrong person, however.. could cost them the ultimate price.
I loved both main characters. Despite the monsters they saw themselves as and their different approaches to the situation at hand, they were genuine and wanted to help others. Pran is all heart. He just keeps trying to get up, no matter what life throws at him.. and I adored him especially.
There are some fantastic antagonists here, one of which is much more complex than they appear at first glance. Few within the walls are separated by more than rank and power. On some level, they've all been victims and it's interesting to see how differently they respond to that.
All in all, I'd definitely suggest this book to anyone who loves stories where the only way out is through others.. where the characters have to decide how much of their ideals they're willing to sacrifice for their freedom.. and where you get to see those decisions tested, all the while hoping they can succeed.
We Are the Fire
'Reaper of Souls' is book two in the Kingdom of Souls trilogy by Rena Barron. A series already optioned for film by Michael B. Jordan's production company, it traverses multiple worlds and is inspired by tales of voodoo and folk magic. Even the first like of the blurb is full of intrigue.
"A prince repelled by magic. A king bent on revenge. A witchdoctor who does not walk alone."
Of course, I'm late to the party and didn't read book one, but it was very easy to catch-up on what the characters had been through in the early pages.
Arrah is the last surviving witchdoctor. Betrayed by family, she finally has the ability to wield magic, but the cost was steep. The kingdom is in chaos and she can't even touch the one she loves.
While Arrah journeys across the tribal lands in search of survivors from the demons' attack, Rudjek scours the land for the demon army's hold.. uncovering a plot that would destroy them all. The Demon King wants Arrah and time is running out to stop him.
This is a very fast-paced story, so the pages just fly by. From the opening scenes as Arrah is returning to the Kingdom's seat of power, there's a feeling of urgency around her. The city is full of unrest with some citizens rallying against the new King and some in staunch support of him. Not everyone is thrilled to see Arrah and her entourage either, but the ones that matter to her are a different story.
Rudjek is charismatic and bold, the moment he enters the scene.. but his insecurities make him charming too. As a craven, he has special skills of his own and they aren't always a boon.. but they do seem to come with a fun set of guardians and the dynamics between both those within his group and Arrah's is really entertaining. Plenty of sarcasm to feed my snarky soul.
Arrah's.. complications are many, but they're very creative concepts. I loved the magic system and overall magical elements in this book, which are a vast, deeply developed mix of wild imagination and a very old way of life.
The cast is full of beautiful, likeable, richly portrayed characters and at various times I found myself loathe to choose a side. Barron does an excellent job of conveying everyone's reasons for their actions to the reader, making it all the more understandable from every angle.. and much harder to accept when someone fails.
My only complaint is a small one. In the attempt to create a twisty tale, there are simply too many 'gotcha' moments. Not to the point that they're hard to follow, just to the point they stop having as much impact.. but honestly that's a problem widespread across media these days.. and purely a preferential issue for me. Definitely not a deal-breaker.
Honestly though, that's the only thing I felt could have been better. The book left me deeply torn as the characters on all sides had become so important to me.
I'm eager for more. Don't miss this series!
'This is Not a Lie' by S.C. Farrow is the story of Joel Reed, guitarist of The Blackhearts, a fictional band sunken into the backdrop of the Melbourne music scene during the early 80s. An urgent search for a new singer, finds them auditioning Harry Engel.. a relative unknown who's recently moved into the area.. with a powerful voice and even more powerful presence.
Surrounded by people who want to see him succeed, Joel is still struggling. He's a high-functioning heroin addict with a secret. Living a carefully constructed lie, he's lonely and self-destructive, and desperately trying not to be discovered.. fearful that his truth would be a quick end to any hopes of making it big.. in a place and time where intolerance is prevalent.
If I'm being completely honest.. the cover of this book drew me first. There's sort of a pretty Peter Steele thing going on there.. with the softly brooding expression. You have to understand.. before I read the synopsis.. I saw someone on the cover I understood. Someone who felt familiar to me.
For several years, starting in high school, I worked professionally in the music industry. I did everything at one time or another. I managed bands, did PR, oversaw venue bookings, pitched to labels, handled marketing both internally and in the field, and even worked for a label directly. You could say I was thoroughly entrenched in the business and the lifestyle.. and truth be told.. sometimes I still miss it. But I don't miss the loss.
There's a stereotype, of course.. that creatives are often more risk prone.. and I find that to be true. Musicians.. especially. There's definitely a group within the overall mix who are there trying to fill an emptiness caused by something growing up. Not enough attention in the home, too much of the wrong kind of attention, love and loss at early ages of their own, self-loathing, feelings of being too different and too alone.. all fuel this bright burning need to be adored.
Joel and Harry are like that. Yet, at the same time.. in a way.. they're complete opposites. They both feel things entirely too acutely, but Joel hides those feelings away.. numbing himself with smack so he can ignore them, while Harry struggles through, getting back to a free-spirited, generally happy nature as soon as he's able.
Harry is magnetic even within printed pages, but I find myself unable to be objective enough to decide if that's because he feels like a friend I lost, or because of the way he's written. I will say, of all the characters in the book, he's the most well-developed. I can visualize him.. and to a degree, I can visualize Joel.. but not as well.
Emotionally, this book could have been really difficult to read, but there's a lot more telling than showing about how things happen. I really think it's a story that could have benefitted from third person over first, because hearing only Joel's thoughts just waters down some of what he's going through.. and really, that's the meaty part of the story. This character is dealing with some very heavy things.
Normally, I'd expect to feel a closer connection to someone by seeing through their eyes, but that's just not the case here. I felt closer to Harry because of the way Joel perceived him.. and I think the same could have been true of both of them, if it were just narrated differently.
Unexpectedly, but largely due to the aforementioned issue, I was very slow to warm to the book as I read. It was interesting, but moderately so, and I had no trouble walking away from it periodically. Eventually it made me cry, but even that could have been much more impactful.
I do think Farrow has a lot of potential and I'm curious to see what else she might publish. This particular story is a bit weak due to the fact she tends to overindulge in some unnecessary descriptions and then come in swinging low for what should be heavy hitting emotions. There's a good framework here, she just needs to prioritize a bit better and expand on her character and story development skills.
Still, if you're like me and have worked in the industry or if you tend to fall for broken musician types, you might want to give this book a chance. I'm glad I did.
'The Girl at the Back of the Bus' by Suzette D. Harrison is a historical fiction story that follows the paths of two women dealing with racial injustices decades apart.
Told in a split narrative across two timelines, the book begins centered around Mattie Banks. Sixteen years old and pregnant, she boards a bus, hoping the driver will carry her away from disaster. Purely by chance, she happens to witness an act of bravery by a woman named Rosa Parks. Inspired, she decides to go a different direction with her choices, but dangers and difficulties seem to rise up around her.
Meanwhile, in the present, Ashlee Turner.. dismayed by prejudice and its effects on a career she has worked so hard for, heads home to see her beloved grandmother while she still can. When she finds a hidden trove of letters containing a family secret, she too finds herself at a crossroads.
I was certainly enraged at the injustices portrayed here, likely in part because though so much time has passed since Mattie's tale, not nearly enough has changed. Normally I find it hard to read detailed accounts of the horrible things people do to each other in the name of some perceived right they think they have and I didn't like seeing those things here either. However, I find it incredibly important to keep talking about them.. because I fear that if we as a society ever allow ourselves to forget the things that have been done.. that are still being done.. we will fail to find them as horrifying as we should. And frankly, it seems we're on the verge of failing that anyway.
That being said, the writing is clean and crisp, the structure is sound, and the author does an excellent job of maintaining those two separate voices. There are no surprises here. Of course, there doesn't need to be a twist in everything, but I did come across a couple of spots where misdirection could have made the difference in keeping the storytelling itself, more interesting.
I've read that reviewers were "enthralled and riveted".. but for me, it was just pretty good. I believe the sheer quality of the writing carried the story for most people, but the storytelling aspect was actually outmatched by the technical skill of the author. Quite possibly, the events themselves inspired others to rate the story higher, and that makes absolute sense to me.. but in trying to be objective about the overall presentation, I feel like it could have been more balanced.
Yes. The things these two women experienced were unjust and should never have happened, but I actually think it could have packed a much bigger emotional punch than it did. I did enjoy the characters immensely though. From Dorothy and Mattie, to Ransome and Sadie.. they were painted vividly, full of warmth and determination.
Nonetheless, as I said.. there are some very important topics discussed here.. and that alone might make this story a worthwhile read. It's a good reminder of a terrible time that is not so far behind us and a healthy wake-up call not to dismiss current situations still facing people today.
Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary "career" began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry.
While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next novel...in between batches of cupcakes.
Continue below to read the synopsis, find purchase links, and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'SPARK TO SHADOW' book tour brought to you by LITERARY BOUND TOURS and ATIMA KIM!
Title: Spark to Shadow
Author: Atima Kim
Release Date: February 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance
Paperback: 470 pages
e-Book: 351 pages
Spark to Shadow is about Fang, a young witch with the power of fire who is set to become the next matron of her family coven, as soon as she chooses a consort, a foreign consort.
Featuring a bacheloresque competition, Avatar-like elemental magic, bold adventures, and a handful of dragons, this book marks the first chapter to a brand new series that tells the story of a new generation struggling to find peace after times of turmoil and discovering ways to bring their countries together through love and friendship.
A romantic, Asian-Inspired Own Voices fantasy sure to thrill YA fantasy fans.
*Content Warning; Some mentions of abuse/ mild adult language
Atima Kim is an Asian-American author from Seattle, Washington. In addition to writing books she is a small business owner, dog walker, chicken owner, and a perfectly average mother. Her books draw lots of inspiration from her real life and she hopes to achieve more representation and diversity in literature and especially the world of self-publishing. Her newest novel, 'Spark to Shadow,' is set to be the first in a series of stand-alones.
"It doesn't matter how far we run, or in what direction," Master Cohmac replied. "In the end, we always come back to the beginning."
'Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark' by Claudia Gray is the lastest release in the brand new era of stories which lays out the path of the Jedi prior to The Phantom Menace.
Gray is one of a select handful of Star Wars universe authors chosen for this set of books. Already known for other stories within the franchise history such as 'Leia: Princess of Alderaan,' 'Lost Stars,' and 'Bloodline,' she's also released her own series.. the Firebird novels.
Charles Soule authored the first of The High Republic era novels.. 'Light of the Jedi,' which was released in January and 'The Rising Storm' by Cavan Scott is due to arrive in June.
"How can we split the Force in two? How can we justify such an act of violence--and it is violence, such a dividing, even the darkness divided from the light."
'Into the Dark' follows a padawan named Reath Silas who prefers the scholarly side of the Jedi Order. Most of his days at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant spent in the Archives studying, his Master takes an assignment in the undeveloped frontier in hopes it will broaden his interest in adventuring and help him achieve the much needed balance that's central to their practice.
When the ship he's traveling on are forced to drop out of hyperspace due to a galactic-wide disaster, it's only the first in many things that begins to upend their plans.
As the Jedi and their traveling companions have to take refuge on what appears to be an abandoned space station, the Jedi themselves begin to feel something at work within the Force that unnerves them. They suffer strange visions and feelings they can't explain.
"Let me never forget," he thought, "that it is another living creature standing opposite my blade."
Whether you're a Star Wars fan like myself or you just enjoy great sci-fi storytelling, there's nothing not to love about this book. It's filled with all the angst, mystery, and betrayal that the franchise has come to be known for throughout the years and the story itself is crafted expertly. There were things I expected to occur that never did and things I never saw coming until they were upon me.
I express enough how rare those kinds of occurrences are for me in any kind of media consumption.. but here we are.
The dynamics between the characters are wonderfully fleshed out, especially within the smaller groups that have more familiarity with one another. The natural instincts to fall back on those they often knew best.. before the others.. sometimes worked against them and I feel the story constantly pushed each of them to see beyond their biases.
"If you use your defeat to learn the path to victory, it was no defeat at all."
Of course, it wouldn't be a Star Wars story if it didn't make me well up with tears at least once.. and that certainly held true here. Gray did such a great job of weaving a connection between the characters and myself as a reader.. that I felt no indifference for anyone involved.. I was either deeply invested in their survival or their end.
What I often love about this franchise is that even the 'heroes' are not infallible. They often suffer grave setbacks, question even the most desperate choices they're forced to make, and mourn the actions they eventually succumb to taking. It doesn't hurt, that Star Wars has taught me not to take even their most popular characters for granted.. because anyone can be lost, one way or another.. just as anyone can persevere, even if maybe we wish they wouldn't.
'Don't Tell a Soul' by Kirsten Miller is a modern thriller with a hint of Gothic horror atmosphere about a house that's believed to be cursed and small town stories centering around a series of young women referred to as 'the Dead Girls.'
Bram is a teenage girl with a tough story of her own. Rocked by scandal and an unbearably complicated family situation, she finds herself in a small town on the Hudson called Louth.
Taken in by her uncle, she settles into the rose room at his stately manor. Unfortunately, he's struggling with his own problems.. the loss of his dear wife in a tragic fire that people say was set by her daughter and the destruction of half the house he'd restored with plans of opening an inn.
Pretty much from the moment Bram arrives in Louth, it seems like the locals don't want her around. There's this whole 'us vs them' vibe that's common in small towns.. where even if a family has lived in the area for a long time.. there's no historical ancestry and that deems them outsiders. Miller did a great job conveying that imposing unease of everyone knowing your business and many of the locals have quirks that make them seem a bit off.
Though I knew within moments of her arrival at the manor where a good chunk of the blame was going to lie, I'm relatively certain that was due to the kind of media I like to consume and my own cognitive leaping skills. In fact, the author seemed to work hard to throw misdirects in the reader's path.. frequently.. and I think others may find a surprise or two along the way.
There's definitely a love of lost girls and ghost stories on display in this book and I enjoyed the paths Miller chose to take us down for the most part. I think what's scary about the story is that it could literally be ripped from the headlines somewhere.. though some plot points seem a bit exaggerative, I've read stranger truths.
Nolan is probably my favorite character in the book and I loved Maisie too. I think they both had a lot of potential in their backstories which I would have loved to see more of.. but they were clearly just side characters as the story really focuses on Bram. Either way, they added a wonderful burst of color and texture to this wintery, gray tale.
While it's not quite as robust or eloquent as 'Rebecca' or 'The Woman in Black,' fans of similar types of soft, Gothic ambience should enjoy this book. It was a quick read, that never got dull and there are plenty of puzzle pieces for those like myself who are adept at figuring out the mysteries before they're revealed.