Initial reaction: Parts of this book that I thought were fine, while others didn’t sit well with me at all. A few things to clarify though: while this is definitely a Southern mystery and some of it is accurate to the locales, this is not, I repeat, NOT a Gothic story. Nowhere near close, so I’m not sure why it was advertised like that. I’m not sure if the villain’s perspective really added that much to the story – it colors the tone of the novel as being dark, but I can’t help feeling like I still didn’t know what his motivations were and he came across as being a bit of an evil cliche to me. I was also very disappointed with the ending, and that’s an issue I’ve noted in some of Marr’s other works as well. The build-up might be okay for certain players and events, but the execution leaves much to be desired.
I’m of two minds about this book, even as I’m currently writing the review. This is the first book by Melissa Marr I’ve picked up in a while, and I happened upon it when I’d put in for the book as a hold at my local library. When it came in, I had the opportunity to hear the audiobook version. It was a good reading and I applaud all the readers for it – probably the reason why I liked it as much as I did.
The story has its respective issues, though, and they’re not far from similar things I’ve had problems with in Marr’s previous works. The story revolves between three different narrators: Eva, Judge and Grace (the latter of whom isn’t really featured that much as a perspective point compared to the first two, but she provides a balance).
Basically, Eva is from a very well to do family in a small town not far from Durham, NC (Jessup) and is in the midst of a relationship on the cusp of falling out. She’s hit by a car in the middle of the night by a guy who believes he’s “saving” her (Judge), and she ends up in the hospital with no memory of the incident. While she’s fortunate to be alive, it becomes clear over a series of other deaths that Eva wasn’t meant to be the only victim. In fact, as the deaths start occurring, she finds that they’re meant to be a message for her, and that others will follow that are even closer to her in relation.
But there’s a silver lining/curse as Eva, due to her injuries, witnesses visions of the deaths of those around her; she’s using the ability as a means to warn those from suffering the fate she sees. It’s an interesting concept that has quite a bit of possibilities, but only two people know of this ability – her best friend Grace and her former best friend/love interest Nate.
If I’m going on the things that I liked about the narrative, I liked the attention to place and the overarching mystery blended with the supernatural ability. Marr has the talent of creating a good vision of the community she’s establishing (it’s accurate to some of the locales she’s referencing, though I would note this is NOT a Gothic novel, despite the Southern community setting). She also set the tone for establishing a creepy ability and aide to what seems to be a horrific set of events and a killer on the loose surrounding Eva. I also did like parts of Nate and Eva’s growing relationship, though I felt that the conflict that caused their falling out wasn’t really vetted very much. The story flowed fine for perhaps the first half of the novel, but unfortunately for my experience with Marr’s works, it usually starts to unravel by the latter half and for the wrap-up events of the story.
That said, there were issues that I found I couldn’t overlook in the narrative as it went on. I’m not all that certain Judge’s narrative really added much to the overarching story. Sure, the creep factor was there, but I felt that the backing to his motivations wasn’t established beyond just an obsessive, religious based extremism that had very thin construction and bordered on the cliche. Grace’s perspective was good as an offset perspective to show a contrast to Eva’s findings and for certain later events in the novel, but she wasn’t really as much of a feature compared to Judge’s character. There were progressive events in the novel that were hard to believe as the timeline of the killer’s actions and reactions lined up. The climax of the novel was really the part that killed some of the more thrilling events for me because Eva engaged in actions that were completely in contrast to what her visions stated for little to no reason. It often complicated the scenario in ways that were aggravating and just prolonging the conflict. I felt like Eva hesitated one too many times and complicated the situation with her indecision and diversions than anything else. The ending felt rushed compared to the steady build up of events in novel’s progression, which is something that I’ve seen happen in narratives like “Graveminder” and “Wicked Lovely.”
Overall, it was a good audio reading and decent mystery for establishment, but I felt like it disappointed me for the build-up of the premise and promise of the story’s beginnings.
Overall score: 2.5/5 stars