Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
I adored Gods of Jade and Shadow, so I was looking forward to reading this book. This book is touted as a “feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy” which sounded like it would be a great book to lose myself in and give myself some fun heebie-jeebies.
The story is set in Mexico in the 1950s. The heroine of the story, Noemi, goes to visit her recently married cousin at her mysterious mansion in the countryside after receiving a strange letter from her begging for help. Upon arriving at the mansion, Noemi is quickly enveloped in the strange and uncanny atmosphere as she endeavours to get to the bottom of her cousin’s fears.
Noemi is a socialite and I found her quite a vapid and unlikeable character from the outset. My opinion did not much improve as I continued to read, something about her just grated on me. Spoiled, self-centred brat characters never really click with me, so I had a bit of trouble caring about any of the perils she experienced. It is not a great sign when you find yourself actively hoping something bad will happen to the main character. The other characters were ok I suppose. They were all just a bit weird, I know that is probably the point, but it made it difficult to engage with them or to be curious about their stories.
The mysteries of the mansion and the family are slowly exposed whilst Noemi finds herself more and more unable to separate herself from the mansion and its secrets. There are some genuinely creepy moments but nothing to really elevate it to the promise offered by the synopsis. There are some issues with pacing too and a large chunk of the middle section is rather dull with lots of conversations and wandering about aimlessly. The romance element also seemed distasteful and unnecessary for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe Noemi’s constant reference to how unattractive and sickly he was didn’t help.
If I had to describe this book to someone, I’d say it was like a not so great riff on Crimson Peak. There are a lot of elements that I found very similar to that movie but whereas it was genuinely creepy, this just wasn’t really. The cause of the mysterious events turned out to be a bit of a let-down and it all just felt a bit underwhelming all round.