In the mood for some Southern Gothic? Romances, tragedies, mysteries, magic and ghosts abound in this YA paranormal mystery set in the Old South.
Sylv...moreIn the mood for some Southern Gothic? Romances, tragedies, mysteries, magic and ghosts abound in this YA paranormal mystery set in the Old South.
Sylvie Davis was a soloist for the American Ballet Company, a prima ballerina at age 17. Then ‘The Accident’ leaves her with a limp and a dead career. Sylvie’s post-surgical attitude is 1/3 extreme teenage angst, and 2/3’s Dr. House’s my-leg-hurts-so-I-will-hurt-everyone-else-verbally. It’s painful to read the opening as the first person POV details both the physical pain in her leg and the emotional pain of losing what she had valued most.
Our bitter heroine is sent – exiled – from her Manhattan lifestyle to a tiny Alabama town to spend part of her summer with a cousin she has met exactly once. “A change of scenery,” and other various euphemisms are used, but everyone is worried that she is, at worst, suicidal, and, at best, in need of a new attitude, and must needs be watched closely while her mother and new stepfather go on their honeymoon.
Her initial problems, such as being a vegetarian in a household that shops at the Piggly-Wiggly, are soon superseded by a very big worry that she has gone insane. After all, sane people don’t see visions of southern belles and Confederate generals, right? Right??
Sylvie begins to dig into the history of her ancestral home, unearthing some strange secrets, as well as a hunky but mysterious geologist student from Wales who refuses to explain just why exactly he is so interested in some certain local rocks. Meanwhile, the local kids are acting oddly, as if hiding secrets of their own. And their leader, golden boy Shawn Maddox, turns on the charm in a way that leaves the reader wanting to hit him with an anti-smarmy stick.
After much sleuthing, all secrets come to light at about the same time in the last act, in a truly terrifying scene that played out like hurricane of ghosts.
The story is a long set up, and the words ‘don’t’ and ‘trust’ get old really fast, but all of the characters’ voices and the setting feel extremely real. Lots of little details are sprinkled throughout – some play out later as part of the mystery, but some are just the wonderful touch of a writer who knows how to pull an imaginary town out of her head and make you think it’s real.
Throughout it all, Sylvie has a trusty sidekick in the shape of Gigi, a diva of a little dog who accepts the world’s slavish praise as her just due but is also quick to come to her mistress’s defense – and don’t let her size fool you! I can’t think of any other dog characters that exuded as much wonderful personality as Gigi does. She makes the book as much as dog lover’s book as much as it is a romance or mystery or paranormal book.
On a total side note, I really loved that the magic spells were being chanted in what the character Rhys called: "really bastardized Welsh." A nice change of pace from the usual Greek, Latin or Hebrew.
If a high school English teacher never made you read Tennyson, Google "The Splendor Falls by Lord Tennyson" to see what the title is refering to.
Kirkus Reviews calls the book “both realistic and dreamlike” – which I found to be a perfect description of the narrative tone.
While the main charact...more Kirkus Reviews calls the book “both realistic and dreamlike” – which I found to be a perfect description of the narrative tone.
While the main character describes a tough, realistic, primitive life style on an ancient island, ghosts and goddesses float through the main character’s life as she discovers truths about both the lands of the living and the dead.
A love story on many levels, exploring how love and hate are very much two sides of the same coin. (less)
First, a comment on the cover: I don’t like it. I really don't like this trend of extreme close-ups on covers - its as bad as the headless woman shots...more First, a comment on the cover: I don’t like it. I really don't like this trend of extreme close-ups on covers - its as bad as the headless woman shots, only these make me think she's trying to sell me lipstick, shampoo, or contacts.
Next, my favorite line in the book:
"Don't ever trust anyone who's writing a book. They make up lies for a living."
I want to get this on a t-shirt, fridge magnet, bumper sticker, and quite possibly chisel it onto my grandfather's tombstone.
Ok, my actual review follows:
The Law of Chekov’s Gun informs us that a gun hung on the wall in Act 1 will be fired by Act 3. In the romance version of this, if a girl and boy have a fight the first time they meet in Act 1 they will be making out by Act 3.
Clement-Moore takes this to humorous heights as her main Girl and Boy characters have quite the heated debate when they first meet, made all the funnier by the fact it starts with the girl jumping up and down in her underwear while yelling at some cows to get away from her car (in makes sense in context.)
Ghosts and goats, cows and cowboys, and archeology and parapsychology all follow, with some beer and barbeque thrown in, and of course, well meaning family members driving our main characters crazy.
Clement-Moore should consider working for the Texas Tourism Bureau, because she can really sell her setting – the rural land she describes becomes a character in its own right, and one that sounds to be very much worth meeting. (less)