You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who likes coffee and who kisses you in a cemetery… Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
I have to confess that I’ve never read much of Gothic horror, but I thought I would give this book a try. Maybe the title seemed attractive or the blurb – I was quite eager to read it. By the end of it, I was thinking – what in heaven’s name did I just read? This book was high on the creep scale – and that is saying a lot from me, because I don’t mind dark books at all. The story is set in this idyllic coast-side town called Echo where Violet and her twin brother Luke live alone in their family’s mansion by the coast. They come from old money, and their parents are traveling all over fulfilling their artist fantasies, not caring that money is running out for the kids they own. So Violet, naive girl that she is, thinks of putting the guesthouse for rent and who comes a-knocking but River West, a mysterious (more like creepy) boy who just spouts lies out of his mouth. That doesn’t matter to Violet or Luke or their neighbor Sunshine (?) because they all become good friends with him within the first few hours itself. Violet is falling hard and fast for him, and you are left wondering – what the heck just happened. In fact, you would find yourself chanting that line through half the book because a lot of twists come – I don’t even know whether to find them ridiculous, because of River’s secret power. Yes, it has a touch of paranormal in that River can make people see things – kind of like compulsion. He calls it the glow and apparently it’s a family thing. (Someone needs to stop his dad ASAP). Thanks to this ‘glow’ he can waltz into their lives, manipulate them and generally cause all kinds of ‘wickedness’ around town, including making a man kill himself.
As for the characters, I don’t get any of them. I felt the writing left much to be desired, both with the story and the characters. Maybe it adds to the charm of the Gothic by letting nearly all the characters get sudden bursts of seriousness, but such moments get quite creepy. Violet, the main protagonist, is quite frustrating. She is naive and smart, but morbid and romanticizes nearly everything. River is quite smooth – strike that, all the guys in this book are smooth, grabbing hands and what not – and she can’t really stop herself from drowning in his lurve. Even after knowing the truth, she still can’t let go of her feelings – which may or may not be manufactured. I wouldn’t say I like her but I liked the way her character developed with it’s flaws. Sunshine – god, was she a cliche – the seductive best friend who gets nearly killed. But Brodie takes the cake on the most frustrating characters ever met – he is supposed to be this evil antagonist but in reality is just a psychopathic preteen drunk on power. About River, well, he was two murders short of joining Brodie on the insane side but mostly I didn’t like his character for the fact that nothing out of his mouth can be trusted. Also, he likes to manipulate people and is remorseless about it, no matter his resolution at the end. I also didn’t get what the deal was with the Devil sprinkled throughout the prose – since the evil is quite human in origin. I thought it was sinister in the way supernatural horror would be, but in some scenes it just feels like a slasher flick. The Gothic feel was certainly there but the characters are quite frustrating. The story was okay, but the writing was inclined more towards setting up the atmosphere rather than story progression. Overall, an okay book but I wasn’t just satisfied with it.
Received a copy from Faber & Faber via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review