This post uses affiliate links and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you. Click here for more info.
Rumours are nasty things. They lurk in the shadows and feed off people’s worst instincts.
I love me some strong female characters, so when Dying Arts Press reached out to me to offer me a chance to read this YA fantasy I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately this book did not work for me: I found the characters flat, world-building confusing, and the plot to be predictable and, if I am being honest, a little troublesome.
Abigail is 13 years old and her father just mysteriously died. Part of the burial process of loved ones is known as the Resting, where the spirit can say their final goodbyes to loved ones before crossing over. Unfortunately something went wrong and her father’s soul wasn’t there, so they are left alone with their grief and questions without their chance to say goodbye. Within a couple of days, his estranged brother comes and invites the family (Abigail, her mother, and her brother) to stay with him at Ravenscourt for awhile. And then the mysteries really begin.
This could have been a fantastic story and the beginning was interesting to me, but unfortunately once they move into Ravenscourt the entire plot can be summed up by my least favorite writing device: conflict that can be easily resolved if the characters merely spoke to one another. It is obvious that the adults are hiding things from the children. The kids are given a list of rules to “keep them safe” but no context as to what is going on, leading their minds to wander and in search of answers for their dad’s death and the spooky secrets behind Ravenscourt. Seriously, if Uncle Edward just told them why the rules were in place and maybe why they were there in the first place, there would have been no conflict in this book. The time could have been spent on strengthening the world-building, which I found interesting but confusingly developed. Honestly there is enough of an interesting story and world here without the need for this ‘misunderstanding plot introductory book’.
While I found the story itself predictable, I also found it a little troublesome. The housekeeper at Ravenscourt is put in charge of looking after the children, and not only is their mother hardly present for them in the weeks following their father’s death but the housekeeper obviously has no love for children and her behavior is abusive. On more than one occasion does she yell, call them names, grab them roughly, lock them in rooms, and even lock the main character in a closet. There is really no reason for this, and while the mother challenged it early on, it continued unchallenged and made me uncomfortable. There is never an excuse for child abuse, but it does nothing for the plot other than torment our characters and the housekeeper’s reasoning is never given she just leaves at the end.
Overall I just wasn’t the right reader for this book, for a more positive review check out Kelsey’s review here. This is definitely a lower-YA story, which the market is sorely missing, but given the abuse I hesitate to recommend this book to younger readers. It is worth noting that I had originally rated this book two stars, but after sitting with my thoughts and writing out my review I unfortunately have lowered it to one star.
CONTENT WARNINGS: grief, loss of a parent, abuse (the housekeeper and her penchant for punishing the children) and neglect (mother not putting her foot down more against the housekeeper)
You can find information about my rating criteria here.
Many thanks to the publisher, Dying Arts Press, for sending me an eARC for review. All opinions are my own. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication.
A dead father.
A missing Spirit.
An ancient manor with way too many locked doors.
But Abigail Crowe won’t let locked doors, corsets, or the straight-laced rules of Victorian society get in the way of finding the truth behind her father’s death. Of course, where illegal magic is involved, things are rarely as simple as they appear. Screams in the night, an insane gardener, and a murder blamed on her late father are only the beginning. Could her father actually be a murderer? What is Uncle Edward hiding in the attic? And perhaps most importantly—which family secrets are worth keeping locked up?