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  • 1 person found this review helpful

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    cheesy, but good

    I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for a honest review. Someone had the brilliant idea to turn the mechanical moving house of a stage magician and his occultist wife into a hotel, and now guests are disappearing! It’s up Elle Black, paranormal detective, to find out what’s behind the unconventional house and get herself and the other guests out of there alive. why read it: interesting setting, very creepy. Nice gaslamp fantasy atmosphere. why not: holy pacing issues Batman! I want to sit down with the author and have her explain the ending. I must admit it, I mostly requested this book from NetGalley for the Victorian same-sex couple paranormal detectives. The relationship between Elle and Faedra was certainly not the focus of the plot, but it was a nice touch and they were a very caring and loving couple (and you will get me to read literally anything if you tell me there are lesbians). What I liked the most about the book was the setting. The larger universe, a Victorian Britain where paranormal powers exist, was nothing special and was barely explored, but the haunted mechanical/magical house was a true beauty. The author evokes very well how fascinating and still menacing the house is. By the climax, I felt a sense of oppression during every scene set in the Sundark. Its workings are never fully explained, but it only adds to the mystery and danger, in my opinion. The paranormal aspect felt like the tip of an iceberg. From some passages it seemed an insane amount of worldbuilding went into a system of supernatural apparitions (the difference between a “true ghost” and a “memory” sounds especially interesting) and different kinds of magic, some of them tied to pagan mythology. Sadly, in others it felt like the proverbial fantasy kitchen sink. The characters are not very well developed, but there are loads of them, as in every self-respecting mystery novel, and it is a very short book. At times, Eden seemed the most rounded of them, even more than the protagonist. The writing was clunky in some passages, although I got a feeling it was trying to imitate old penny dreads (but I never read one so I can’t be sure). The average rating mostly stems from giant, glaring, pacing issues. The whole first chapter is devoted to an infodump about Elle’s previous marriage, her hospitalization into an asylum, and the legal contracts that allow her and Faedra to live as wives. It almost seemed like a synopsis for a preceding book in a series, but there isn’t one. Most of the backstory revealed there is in no way relevant to the book, and is only seen again in Elle’s thoughts and in the sequel hook. A sequel hook that takes up 13 pages (roughly 1/10 of the novel, waaay too much) and bored me almost to tears.[spoiler]The story ends more than two chapters before the ending of the book. The last one is taken up by the sequel hook, the preceding one by our heroines going back to daily life and a conversation with one of the hotel guests. I think if the revelation about who he is had come earlier, during the investigation, it would have made him more interesting and sympathetic. In the second to last chapter, it feels like a post scriptum (and given all together like that it’s another info-dump).[/spoiler] Some things appear for no/absolutely flimsy reasons (the hounds??? I have so many questions about the hounds and the ending in general. I shall not ask them to avoid further spoilers), and the motives of the antagonist are never completely clear (we get a nebulous explanation about power, but how killing people grants them power is left in the air).
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