Nineteen twenty-two. Grace has been sent to the stately and crumbling Fenix House to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps as a governess. But when she meets the house’s inhabitants, people who she had only previously heard of in stories, the cracks in her grandmother’s tale begin to show. Secrets appear to live in the house’s very walls and everybody is resolutely protecting their own.
Why has she been sent here? Why did her grandmother leave after just one summer? And as the past collides with the present, can Grace unravel these secrets and discover who her grandmother, and who she, really is?
This novel has been sitting on my TBR pile for a lot of months now. For some reason every time I felt the urge to pick it up an read it, something else came up and made me leave it where it was. I remember the moment I decided to order it. It was the slightly Gothic feel to it, the family secrets, that unsettling feeling of a story that will change you. At least I hoped so…
This is a good story and well written, but it does get a bit slow at times, to the point that about 100 pages of the book could have been cut and the story wouldn’t have been changed much. Lately, I notice that this is the problem of most books – I don’t know if it’s me that has become impatient, or authors have become to fond of words that they refuse to get to the point fast enough.
Telling the story in two time-frames was indeed a very intriguing choice of plot device, but it came across a bit gimmicky at times. Believe me when I say this is rich and atmospheric novel, which draws its readers in from its very prologue, ‘Not all stories should be regarded as beginnings, middles and ends… Some like this one, are formed like a circle, with something terrible and secret at the core, and everything else radiating out, ripples from a raindrop on water.’ Riordan lulls her readers under a spell with her Gothic descriptions and intrigue; and more than once was I reminded of classics such as Jane Eyre, which even actually features in the book, as if Riordan was paying a tribute almost. Whilst it is clear that she has certainly drawn inspiration from other works of literature, Riordan nevertheless commands a sense of ownership of her material, stamping it very much as her own.
And although it was a very predictable read, I believe that it still was enjoyable. It was told in a very stylish manner, which nowadays is a rare experience and one should give Riordan credit for that! It wasn’t as dark as I expected, but it is a well developed novel, so definitely read it and see for yourself; especially if you are a Riordan fan!