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The Golden Key

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  47 ratings  ·  28 reviews
An extraordinary, page-turning Gothic mystery set in the wilds of the Norfolk Fens from the BSFA-shortlisted author.

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.

Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by Titan Books
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Average rating 3.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  47 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Liz Barnsley
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed The Golden Key during it's opening chapters, atmospheric and cleverly written but after about the halfway mark I felt it got a little muddled.

It's a bit jump around in its plotting and whilst I engaged with the characters I didn't feel I got to know them enough over the course of the story.

I loved the gothic aspects of it and the beautifully descriptive Victorian era but overall it was a bit messy and the ending was a bit of a let down

Will be interested to see what the author
Feb 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
I had to DNF this one at 64 pages... I tried to read more but I just couldn’t get into it. The writing seems very stilted and there is no real sense of a plot... maybe it gets better further on but I was literally forcing myself to keep reading when I had no desire to.
Kal ★ Reader Voracious

Part supernatural, part detective story with Gothic vibes? Yes please.

I received a finished copy the publisher, Titan Books, in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my opinions.
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Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Golden Key is a wonderful debut novel by this author and I’m grateful to Titan books for providing me with copy for review, historical is a genre that I rarely get the opportunity to read and with the addition of some wonderful fantasy elements this book ticked a lot of boxes for me. The setting as the blurb explains, is in a Britain shortly after the loss of Queen Victoria, the seance scene has skyrocketed along with the naysayers, what is without doubt though, is a number of missing ...more
Andover Library
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a book that needs time dedicated to it. Some books I find I can pick up and put down in the small gaps of time I find to squeeze in extra reading, The Golden Key wasn’t one of those books. I read the first couple of chapters in the bit-by-bit style but I was loosing track of the characters and getting a little lost. However once I sat down and gave this book the time it needed I found myself wrapped up in this hugely atmospheric and eerie tale.

The writing is quite fluid and the jump
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good gothic thriller with some wonderful use of atmosphere; smart plotting and a great look at the role and erasure of women in the period. Also wonderfully eerie and perfect for stormy nights

Full review -

Feb 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
I really didn't enjoy this book. The first chapter was promising, but I couldn't get into it after that. I have no clue what happened for 350 pages long.
Vincent Desjardins
This book was a real disappointment which is a shame because it has so many elements that I typically enjoy - end of the Victorian era setting, spiritualism, seances, fairyland, changelings, mystery, spooky atmosphere, strong female character, etc. But unfortunately the book's structure seemed a bit of a mess. It was like the author had constructed a connect the dots puzzle, and probably had a good idea in her own head of what she was attempting, but she left out too many of the dots for a ...more
Doris Raines
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sophie Farr
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Spooky, lyrical and full of atmosphere.

I've always enjoyed books that play with ambiguity – the author assumes her reader is sharp enough to use their imagination to fill in any spaces, and it always leaves me thinking about the book for longer after I've finished it.

Now I need to add Marian's short story collection to my reading list!
A. Luna
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I didn't know what this book was about when I started to read it. What I did know was that Marian Womack is a rising star in the contemporary gothic literature scene and that this book is based on the famed short story "The Golden Key" by George MacDonald. Otherwise, I delved into it without the slightest clue. Of course, I had read the synopsis, but I didn't fully process it until I finally finished this lovely novel.

Upon starting the first chapter, I was puzzled. It's as if I had arrived in
Swords & Spectres
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

This book, going by the blurb, has everything I love in a novel. It claims to be historical fiction with elements of detective mystery and spiritual goings on. Upon reading the blurb I was extremely excited.

Sadly, upon reading the book, I felt incredibly let down and terribly misled. The character listed in the blurb barely appears in the first one-hundred pages (perhaps only a few pages). And, so jumbled is the plot, and
Dan Bassett
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
1901, Queen Victoria has passed away and England is in mourning and caught up in the craze of seances and contacting those they have lost.
Helena Walton is known for her uncanny ability to find things that are lost and is hired by Lady Matthews to solve a twenty year old mystery of her three stepdaughters who vanished on the Fens of Norfolk.
However, the Fens are the land of dark magic, folk lore and the devil himself....
Why have children been disappearing? Why have some been found catatonic? And
Kirsty ~ Paper Hearts Ink
A beautifully written gothic tale that kept me guessing. I did find the multiple perspectives a little confusing at times. It jumped around a lot and although it all came together at the end it was just too late for me to feel satisfied.

I loved how eerie it felt and I connected with Helena the most. She was such a forward thinking woman for the times and I love how the author wove a feminist thread into the story. However, because we didn’t spend all of our time with Helena I still felt a
Dawn Martin
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it
The Golden Key started out and remained, for the most part, very suspenseful. There are multiple stories happening at the same time, that then smash into one another. There is a fantastic combination of realism and the paranormal throughout the story. And then, at the very end, it all fizzled out. It is almost as though it was finally coming to a conclusion, however, it just raised more questions about what really happened. I am not entirely sure if this was done intentionally in order to segue ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, historical
Maybe it was just me but I found it a bit messy? Don't get me wrong I loved the gothic elements and the gorgeous descriptions of the Victorian era but I felt there was something missing...

The cast of characters are unique and interesting, the descriptions of the era are beautiful. But I felt the structure was slightly miss-matched there was some fab idea but the implementation fell short for me. I was so gutted because the concept had so much potential.

Thanks to Titan Books for a copy in
S.E. Anderson
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it
When I opened this book, I instantly knew I was going to love it: the atmosphere was so spooky and unique, the characters intriguing, namely the victorian/female version of the show Phych, where a woman pretends to be a psychic in order to solve crimes. SIGN ME UP.

However, the book should have been twice as long! The ending felt rushed, especially compared to the well-paced start, and jumped around until reaching a wild conclusion. Did someone rip out fifty pages? I'd like them back!
Kendall Culbertson
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
2.5 stars, I think. This was a great storyline that wasn’t executed in the best way for me. I found myself having a hard time following what was happening. The writing style is lyrical but also occasionally confusing. The book left me wanting more of some things and less of others. All in all an ok, quick read.
A feminist Gothic fantasy that combines 'Alice in Wonderland' and the fairy tales of Lewis Carroll with the Spiritualist and suffragette movements in England just after the death of Queen Victoria. The author’s lyrical writing conveys an elegant sense of mystery and other worldliness.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc

I enjoyed the main story and liked Helena's characters, but some parts were confusing and the open-ending felt flat for me. I wished I knew more, because I'm still not sure yet what exactly happened at the end.
Maggie May
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
A good idea poorly executed. All of the vagueness and skipping around was obviously meant to create mystery but it just kept me from getting into the story.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This has to be my new faviorite read of the year. Superbly gothic and fun. I loved every second.
Fabienne Schwizer
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jan 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Thank you to Titan Books for gifting me a copy of this book to review. This is a Victorian era novel with a touch of fantasy.

I found this book okay to read and I was a little disappointed by it but I think I just expected more. I loved the synopsis and it was the reason I wanted to read this book but having read it I believe it could have been better.
The Characters were okay, some more developed than others. I'd say the main character was Helena Walton who is a detective who is looking into the
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: titan
02/07/2020 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk.

02/17/2020 Check out my review at!
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Marian Womack is a bilingual writer born in Andalusia and educated at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. She is currently completing a part-time Masters Degree in Creative Writing at Cambridge University, and recently graduated from the Clarion Fantasy and Science-Fiction Writer’s Workshop at USCD. She is co-editor of the academic book Beyond the Back Room: New Perspectives on Carmen Martín ...more
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