Wednesday, November 13, 2013

She Walks in Darkness by Evangeline Walton

The Basics:

She Walks in Darkness by Evangeline Walton
Tachyon Publications
Mystery/Thriller, Romance
Published September 30, 2013

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Beneath the beautiful estates of Tuscany lies another world, twisting labyrinths of catacombs, temples, and tombs filled with lost wonders of the ancient world. Treasures of ancient royal lines lie untouched, watched over by the unblinking eyes of pitiless Etruscan deities. Caught up in a gothic saga of passion, madness, honor, and revenge, a resourceful young woman must rely on her wits, or be lost to the tender mercies of a brutal goddess. This first publication of a newly discovered jewel of a period thriller is sure to please fans of all genres.

Note that I think this book should be labeled gothic and be done with it. There's no real romance component and the book is so steeped in the gothic style that there's really no other appropriate genre. That said, NetGalley doesn't have a 'gothic' option, so I understand the categorization as it was given to me.

What worked for me:

This is a skillfully written gothic novel. It calls to mind the work of Lovecraft in style if not content. The setting and atmosphere are pitch perfect, conveying the panic and terror of our narrator even as she explicitly describes her fear. The overall reading experience is sublime. 

This book is heavy on style, on the slow turns of the screw. It was so different from my usual reads - either breezy and light like so much contemporary romance or New Adult or that dark sensuality that tends to be so popular in erotica right now. I really enjoyed the slow, creeping realization that everything was not as it seemed. It was delicious!

What didn't work for me:

This is an old-school, slowly paced story. I had to read it over multiple sittings due to other obligations and that meant I didn't get the full impact of all the atmosphere and tension. 

The only thing that really bugged me about the writing was the attraction between our heroine and Floriano. That he was a beautiful male specimen is fair, and her attraction to him at that superficial level was fine, but that her *new* husband could be laying unconscious from an injury, while a murderer was on the loose, and she could be tempted at all... that really irked me. 

Bottom line:

If you have the time to read through this in one sitting, perhaps late one evening, curled up fireside with a cup of tea and a blanket, then this could be quite a good read. It's certainly not for everyone, written in a style that recalls those gothic stories of the late nineteenth century. If you want a breezy read, then bypass this one. But if you like to enjoy the journey of the book as much as the destination, this book is for you.

It's written beautifully, with rich, atmospheric detail that's so often missing in contemporary stories. 

4 stars
For fans of the gothic novel, of elegant writing, of that skin-crawling feeling you get as the terror slowly builds....

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