Sunday, 18 December 2011

Review: The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.
With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh—and a disappointed suitor—far behind. She is bound for Rumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.
She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians, replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.
Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute—Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.
Before her sojourn is ended—or her novel completed—Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal…and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

Oh my, do not read this book at night. Unless you have a baseball bat by your bed in case of emergencies, and possibly a fluffy animal to guard against the big scary things.

I’ve been saving this book for so long now, waiting for when I needed it most as some (albeit terrifying) chicken soup. And I always worry when I save a book specifically, that maybe I’ll it won’t live up to my expectations, but this one most certainly did.

Deanna Raybourn’s classically beautiful prose is in fine form, a beautiful interweaving of a voice so completely pitch perfect for the time period and setting, and an engrossingly brilliant plot that sweeps you up and away with it.

I loved Theodora as a character – such an independent and strong women, completely against the stereotype of the period, with a vivid imagination and a strong sense of self and the world around her. It makes her travels into the terrifying aspects of the castle and its secrets all the more frightening – for a women of high intellect and sound mind to be capable of believing these things, it really shows how hysteria can sweep a person away with it, although she fights with logic every step of the way.

I also loved the Count. Raybourn creates such brilliant heroes, they’re practically anti heroes despite the strong morale code that means they end up protecting our heroines. He’s no tame man waiting for Theodora to command him, he’s dangerous and savage, whilst retaining a cool detached elegance that makes him the most intriguing character to pick apart in the book.
The romances that Raybourn constructs in her work are spot on. They combine the heat of seduction – a glance, a touch – and pair it with some of the most headstrong and feisty men that at first glance don’t seem immediate hero material. Instead of reducing the passion and heat of the romance though, it heightens it, bringing it into a whole new level.

Raybourn has a very brilliant way of making the absolute fantasy seem completely real and terrifying, and then turning it on its head and showing how humans can in some cases be just as terrifying, if not more so, than the myths and legends of wolves and vampires and terrors that walk abroad in the night. It was something that I loved about ‘Silent in the Sanctuary’ – no matter how many times I read that book, knowing full well how it turns out, I still get shivers when I read it. It’s an incredible talent and one that marks Deanna Raybourn up as one of my all-time favourite authors.

Not only that, but you can never truly tell who the villain is until she wants you to know. I love a book that I can’t guess the end after a couple of chapters, and I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen. It makes for a much more satisfying story when you’re left dangling at the author’s whim.

This book didn’t capture me in quite the same way as Deanna Raybourn’s ‘Lady Julia’ series, but it was still an absolutely stunning work, and one that I will come back to again and again. Very, very highly recommended.

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