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The Golden Key

2.94  ·  Rating details ·  101 ratings  ·  50 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, 323 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by Titan Books
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Average rating 2.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  101 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I so anticipated liking this book. The blurb on the back cover pulled me in with the promise of all of my favourite things...seances, disappearing girls, strong female characters, folk tales, dark magic and all set in the liminal space of the Fens, one of my favourite places in the world. I had such high hopes but I soon realised that I wasn'tenjoying the reading experience very much as I found it almost impossible to retain any of the story. I was re-reading passages several times and when
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 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 -

Helen Carolan
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had such high hopes for this one. Sounded like it was right up my street. An eerie Norfolk setting a mysterious manor house and the main players all having secrets and a link to the mysterious house. Oh and I forgot to mention it's one of my fave genres.Gothic. Sadly it didn't do too much for me. Very disjointed and confusing. Such a shame as it did have the odd moment when something fab occured. Sadly there weren't enough of those moments. Disappointing.
The Coycaterpillar Reads
Feb 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Had to DNF @25%

I couldn't connect with the characters or discriptions. A real pity.
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.
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 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 couldnt 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. ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: from-publisher
You can read my full review on my blog, The Writerly Way, here.

Many thanks to Titan Books for a finished copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Im a very simple woman. I see Gothic and a hint of the supernatural and I am there. The Golden Key sounds like a perfect combination of ghosts and superstition and haunted buildings and it was a good combination of these things, but it left some things to be desired.

The Golden Key is a haunting, atmospheric Gothic tale that artfully blends
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Golden Key is a wonderful debut novel by this author and Im 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
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly Van Damme
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Hi and welcome to my review of The Golden Key!

Folk tales and dark magic, seances and mediums, a twenty-year-old mystery waiting to be solved AND a pretty cover?! This little blogger was all in! The Golden Key delivers all these elements, and does it with verve. Reminiscent of Rebecca and the novels of Laura Purcell, The Golden Key starts out with the kind of Gothic gloom I simply adore; the prose marvellous, detailed but not overly so; the story incredibly atmospheric, dripping with a brooding
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 wasnt 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
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
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
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!
Doris Raines
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Sadly this was quite disappointing although was definitely a 3.5/5 until the last 20 or so pages.

In other reviews Ive seen many other people disliked this book because of the style its written and chose to stop reading it because of this. However this is something I loved throughout because of its attempt to emulate traditional/classic gothic fiction. For example, it introduced so many characters and events and they all seem unrelated or distant at first until a later point in the story. I can
Kate (Looking Glass Reads)
Traditional Victorian gothic is mixed with elements of mystery and fantasy in The Golden Key by Marian Womack. In this, as of yet, standalone novel, the supernatural clash against psychology and detective work. Underneath that lies something more than the Victorian indulgence for séances and tarot readings. Theres something uncanny happening, something that cant be explained by normal measures but can be felt and seen nonetheless.

The book is told from multiple viewpointsa young man with a
Gordon Mcghie
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Its 1901. The Queen is dead and at the start of the 20th century the norms of Victorian England are being challenged a bit more than some may have considered possible during the long reign of Victoria. One notable change is a rise in spiritualism and the need for people to reach out and contact the deceased. As has always been the way; the rise in demand will increase the number of spiritualists who may appear and make themselves available. Through the story of The Golden Key I enjoyed seeing ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
When a 315 page book takes me a week to read it something's wrong. It never pulled me in. It jumped all over the place. I would read 10 pages and it would just plain leave me tired. Maybe it's just not my kind of read! I did finish it. The ending was disappointing as was the entire book. Way too many good books out there to waste your time on this one.
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
It was laborious to get through.
Metaphors, symbolism, something, seem to be used throughout the book, but Im not sure? It was hard for me to follow. Maybe it was very deep.
The two stars is just because I was able to finish it. Thankfully it is a rather short book.
Kym's Open Books
The writing style in this book is very unique and took me quite awhile to get used to. It took a bit more time for me to read and absorb the information. There are many dark twists with seances, ghosts, a spooky house and missing kids. I feel like this shouldve grabbed my attention more but it didnt. I also had a hard time following POV as they were changing a lot and sometimes I wouldnt notice the change.
I loved reading about Helena and her challenging female roles and I especially loved
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
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
I...have no idea what happened in this confusing mess of a book. Atmospheric? Absolutely. Coherent? Uhhhhh...
Erica Clashe
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A witty, lush, gothic fantasy/mystery that brings to mind "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell." There are Spiritualist societies with antagonistic theories of magic recalling Susanna Clarke's famous sorcerer rivalry. And, like Clarke, Womack brilliantly combines the wondrous, the bookish, and the ghastly. Although Womack leans even more toward horror.

Beautifully written, with passages that left me breathless and chilled. The natural/unnatural world is sometimes depicted as more interesting than
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, fairy-tale
In a word, disappointing.

I picked up this book based on the synopsis, which sounded right up my alley. Although the prose is well-written, even beautiful, the story is muddled and lacks shape. I expected to start reading about Helena and Lady Matthews. But the story opens with Samuel, who has some context but not enough to designate his purpose within the larger story. I figured his purpose and story would become clearer. It did . . . somewhat. But that was the problem I had with the bookit
Amy Walker
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it
The Golden Key has everything that I really enjoy in a book. Its got got mystery, a hint of horror, the supernatural, a strong female lead, and a Victorian era setting that I adore. However, I struggled to really connect with the book even though Id been looking forward to it for months.

The Golden Key is set in the days following the death of Queen Victoria, and focuses on Helena Walton-Cisneros, a female investigator who has been hired to look into the twenty year old disappearance of the three
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nicole Sweeney
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Review originally posted on The Bibliophile Chronicles.

When I first read the synopsis of The Golden Key (and saw that stunning cover) I was completely intrigued. The story follows Samuel-Montcrieff, a young man recovering from a recent tragedy and residing in Victorian London. He encounters a lady named Helena Walton-Cisneros, who finds herself caught up in solving the mystery of three young women who disappeared in the Norfolk Fens twenty years ago - but all is not as it seems, and the Fens are
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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 Writers 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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