Monday, November 20, 2023

Book Review: Starling House

Starling House 
by Alix E. Harrow 
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

”I cross the river and drive to the place where the streetlights stop and the woods turn wild, where the only light is the faint, amber glimmer of a lit window, shining to me through the trees.”

Without a doubt Alix E. Harrow has a magical knack for words. Her descriptions are so rich, alive, and (for Starling House) gothic. The beauty and setting of Starling House cannot be argued. It is absolutely gorgeous. Plus the print edition had little sketch drawings throughout. I listed to about half of this on audio, did a couple chapters on e-reader, but in the end felt that my print copy was the best medium to read this gothic romance. Between the drawings, the ‘old school’ feel of paper and print; it just felt right to read this on a real paper page. That’s not to say the narrator was bad, she wasn’t it was very typical audiobook (in my limited experience).

Getting into the details of the story, the plot here is somewhat simple, but that’s okay as the characters are incredible. I was especially excited about the bi-sexual representation. It was a brief reference, but I’ll take it! Harrow’s two main characters, a man and a woman, are easy to sympathize with. I was rooting for them to be together the whole time. This is truly a gothic romance. The romantic interest here is strong and a heavy presence to the story and plot.

Unfortunately, I do feel compelled to disclose that I didn’t love the ending, or the overall excitement level to this story. I was fine with it being a slow burn to start, but expected a lot more in the end. Yes there is a significant moment, obvious magical set-up, and a fight. All the elements were there but the actual impact to me as the reader was a bit lacking.

That’s not to say Starling House isn’t worth reading, because it is. This is truly a classic gothic romance. Just like what you’d have found in the Penny Dreadfuls of old. I think the difficulty is that todays readers need a bit more from their stories than they did back when gothic literature was at its peak popularity. Perhaps if I’d knowing going in to temper my expectations on a big bang at the end it would have helped? It’s hard to say the story builds at such a slow pace, and so well, that you can’t help but want a big payoff for your patience.

Regardless, if you love gothic fiction this is a must read. If you love a tragic romance this is a must read. If you tend to want big action this may not be the book for you. No matter what I don’t think anyone can argue that Starling House is beautifully written and well worth a spot on my print shelf.

Please note, a copy of the audiobook was provided by TOR through NetGalley; but my print and ebook copies were purchased personally. This is no way impacted my review.”

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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Book Review: The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill 
by Rowenna Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

”I thought if I just kept on, I’d eventually get somewhere. But if you choose the wrong path, you’re not going to end up where you wanted to go by charging ahead, are you? You have to stop and turn around sometimes, even if it’s not easy.”

The women in The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill are tough and not easily put down. Thank goodness for that as they live in a time of extreme patriarchy and have to fight for every single small gain they get. The characters and premise that Rowena Miller gives us is brilliant.

Miller has a way with words that always captivated me early on. Sadly it didn’t hold throughout the novel. There is a lull about halfway through, about 75 pages, that felt too repetitive and boring. There didn’t seem to be a large need to show every single bargain made at that point. Thus, sadly when we got to the real fairy interactions portion of the novel it had lost its hold on me. I still enjoyed the last portion and the intricate bargaining with the fairies; but not near as much as I felt I should have.

Miller has not written a plethora of books. This is really only her second world (as her debut was a fantasy trilogy) so perhaps the refinement I desire will come in future stories. I would certainly read another novel by Miller, as I do think she has a true talent in writing. It just may be that a more stringent editor is needed to slice out those repetitive sections that do not serve to move the plot forward.

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