Huge thanks to Chicken House for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer. Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.
This book was delightfully creepy, and in some places downright terrifying. Seriously, I had to take Joey’s advice and put it in the freezer and take a time out at one point. (If you do not get that reference go and watch Friends, now.) (If you don’t believe me there is photographic evidence…)
I do not normally read scary books, I am a non-scary things kinda person. Don’t do horror films, don’t do scary books – so this was quite a departure for me, but it was so good that it was totally worth the nightmares. (Also true, ask my husband, I was jabbering about there being ghosts and creepy things in the house trying to kill me…)
It’s a dual narrative, one point of view with Kate who’s a very modern girl out for a summer adventure with a band of people from school including the enigmatic Leo who has just inherited this supposedly cursed castle. Then there’s Elinor, the original St Cloud bride, who finds herself trapped in an increasingly desperate and frightening situation. I found myself caring equally for both girls by the end, although during the story I would find myself favouring one over the other purely as the narrative fluxed over each high tension point and then relaxed again. I loved watching the two girls stories flesh out, seeing how they intertwined and watching events snowball out of control as all the pieces came crashing together for a truly nail biting climax.
This is a book that isn’t afraid to go all out and scare the pants off you. Some books will shy away from committing when there are ghostly elements involved, wanting to keep you guessing, but Helen decides firmly on her stance with this book and then brings out the big guns to weave an underlying tension that grows and tightens throughout, but also peaks into some truly chilling scenes along the way.
It’s an intriguing mix of characters, and I loved how you start out with a certain set of stereotypes in the modern thread, but those are gradually picked apart and evolve into three dimensional people. Every person starts out as the front they offer to the world, and I loved watching the castle, the isolation and the atmosphere chip away at each of them so that what you’re left with at the end are some very different people to those you thought were embarking on this summer holiday. Most notable is Kate, and I loved watching her start to embrace who she is, to come to terms with aspects of herself, and to start to break down some walls.
This is a fantastic book, a terrifying and brilliant debut from Helen, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next!