Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Vision in Crimson Blog Tour



I'm proud to announce my blog tour schedule for A Vision in Crimson, the first book in my new epic romantic fantasy series, fraught with passion, peril, and vampires! My hearty thanks go out to Bewitching Blog Tours for coordinating this for me. Hop along with me during the tour, and you'll find all kind of cool tidbits about me, sneak peeks at my new series and starring characters, and secret intel my current projects. There will also be some awesome prizes, including notebooks to fuel your own creativity and a swanky keychain!

Schedule:

May 29: Guest Blog- A Gaggle of Giants
Full Moon Bites

May 29: Spotlight
Just Another Bookaholic

May 29: Spotlight
Reads 2 Love

May 29: Spotlight
Sapphyria's Book Reviews

May 29: Spotlight
T's Stuff

May 29: Spotlight
Don't Judge, Read

May 30: Spotlight
Ramblings of a Book Nerd

May 30: Spotlight
Illuminite Caliginosus

May 30: Spotlight
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, and Sissy, Too!

May 31: Spotlight
Ogitchida Kwe's Book Blog

May 31: Interview
Author's Secrets

June 1: Guest Blog-The Sweet Spot: Gothic Romance
Whiskey With My Book

June 1: Spotlight
The Authors Blog

June 1: Spotlight
Lisa's Loves (Books of Course)

June 1: Spotlight
Books, Dreams, Life

June 2: Spotlight
Traci Douglass

June 2: Spotlight
Lisa's World of Books

June 2: Interview
Supernatural Central

June 3: Interview
MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape

June 4: Guest Blog-An Undead History
Fantasy Literature Expanded Universe

June 5: Interview
The Book Junkie Reads...

June 5: Guest Blog- The Strong, Silent Type: Vampires in A Vision in Crimson
Roxanne's Realm

June 6: Interview
Literary Musings

June 6: Guest Blog-The Dark Corners of the Earth: Lovecraft's Effect
Thoughts on Fantasy

June 6: Guest Blog - Not Your Average Heroine: A Profile in Pictures
Fang-tastic Books

June 7: Spotlight
Literary Musings

June 7: Spotlight
Simply Kelina

June 8: Review
Magical Pages Book Blog

June 8: Spotlight
Lisa-Queen of Random

June 9: Spotlight
For Love of Books4

June 9: Review
Fantatical Paranormal Romantical

June 10: Spotlight
Reader's Handbook

June 10: Spotlight
Lovely Loveday

June 11: Spotlight
A Fold in the Spine

June 11: Review
The Simple Things in Life

June 12: Spotlight
Cloe Michael's Reads

June 12: Spotlight
HeadTripping Books

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

An Awful Truth- Gilded Needles

I came back for a second helping of Michael McDowell after reading the new edition of The Elementals, released by Valancourt Books. I picked up Gilded Needles. The sinister cover art, along with the premise of a family invited to their own funeral, sucked me in.

It did not have the supernatural ambiance of The Elementals, which was disappointing, but it was no less dark for it. It painted a grim, painstakingly realistic portrait of New York at the end of the nineteenth century, and pitted two families against one another to the bitter end. The book showcases the discrepancies that still run rampant in cities such as these. The well-to-do Stallworths care only for their reputation and meteoric rise to influence among the the city's social and political elite, targeting the Shanks family for their depravity, and inciting a heinous, (and ultimately rewarding) revenge for stealing the lives of those confined to the Black Triangle: the nexus of New York criminality.

Black Lena, as the Shanks matriarch is called, could have taken it even further, but I suppose that's part of the point. When she exacts her revenge on each member of the Stallworth family in turn, I cannot help but grin. McDowell's deft hand makes it clear at every moment just who are the villains here, and exposes the dark underside of the wretched city in every rank. It is also perfectly plain that these families are more intertwined than they believe themselves to be, just stuck in different corners of their urban cage.

Gilded Needles was not the triumph of mood or atmosphere that I was hoping for, but it is successful in its intention-to pinpoint the true nature of humanity, of depravity, of vanity and false righteousness, and the details of his all-too-real world are delightful. Those select few who can write characters that are vivid, those who linger after the tale is told, are worth second and third looks. I'm certain that I'll be returning for more.

K Rating; 7/10
Image result for old lady american gothic
Add some dirt and about two hundred pounds, and you've got Black Lena

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Your Next Favorite Author: Kathryn Troy

A little ahead of my blog tour (details forthcoming), are some details about me and my fiction at Your Next Favorite Author- check it out!

Your Next Favorite Author: Kathryn Troy



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Reading Patterns: The Novice

The more I read of Trudi Canavan's work, the more I'm beginning to see the patterns in her fiction. That doesn't make it any less enjoyable, but perhaps some things didn't come as so much of a surprise. I read The Novice, the second installment of the Black Magician series, which follows Sonea, the girl from the slums who broke the protective barrier around the Magician's Guild simply by throwing a rock. The first book, The Magician's Guild, is about the race for Sonea to escape the magicians, who are feared more than respected, and their quest to find her before her out-of-control magic destroys her and the whole of Kyralia.

The Novice: The Black Magician TrilogyBy the end of the first book, Sonea decides to become a novice of the guild, to learn to use her power, despite discovering that Akkarin, the High Lord, practices a forbidden blood magic. The Novice tells the story of Sonea's first year in the guild, and the growing pains of being the only intake from the slums, where most magical ability hails from the great houses of Kyralia. I've always appreciated the authentic, compelling social structures in Canavan's work, and in that regard The Novice was no different. Here, she deals with two things new to her fiction: bullying, to the point of out-and-out harassment and assault, and the ostracization of gays.

The story of Guild Ambassador Dannyl traveling abroad to trace Akkarin's old steps, and perhaps find a way to stop the High Lord, was a really slow burn. His tale was repetitive for the most part, and his segments did not drive the plot forward. The adventures he and his librarian sidekick Tayend encounter were not half as compelling as the drama between Sonea and Regin, another novice who gangs up on her time and again, escalating from classroom pranks to prohibited actions that can get her killed. This made the book unbalanced, because I only cared about Dannyl's quest some of the time. And the payoff wasn't spectacular. Him revealing that he's had the feelings he's been rumored to have for so many years, and that he enchants himself into asexuality, is heartbreaking. But it constitutes all of 5 lines.

Image resultI cared much much more about the fact that no one, including the magicians who should be monitoring the novices, especially the guardian to the ringleader Regin, do nothing to stop the harassment. It reinforced for me the idea set forth in the first book, that the class divide is so strong that even mature magicians from the houses feel the same way as the novices. They just don't act on it. It was infuriating, and considering how strict the Guild is supposed to be about training their novices, it didn't make sense that this activity went on for months unchecked. The one or two people who do care are depicted as absolutely helpless-not just to help Sonea, but to help themselves as the High Lord becomes more and more proactive about protecting his secret. I caught hints of The Raen in Akkarin, Canavan's "High Lord" character for her new series Millenium's Rule. The Raen is hard, sometimes cruel, but an effective leader because of the difficult choices he makes. By the end of The Novice, we're left wondering if Akkarin really is the villain, so again we're back to that idea of perceptions. It's a very strong, cohesive concept.

The High Lord: The Black Magician Trilogy by [Canavan, Trudi]
Ultimately, Canavan is best at developing characters who take hold of your heart and don't let go. The third volume, The High Lord, is on my bookshelf, but I must take a breath before I finish it, to savor it all the more.

K Rating: 8/10

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Burnt Offerings - Spoiled by Oliver Reed



I know you're not supposed to spoil a book by watching the movie first...I KNOW...but I didn't know about the book before I knew about the movie. I rented it for the first time at a Blockbuster, what does that tell you? Anyway, I went into Robert Marasco's Burnt Offerings with high expectations, because the 1976 film adaptation, starring my favorite sot, Oliver Reed, and horror queen Karen Black, is sooo freakin' good! That movie is hands down the best haunted house movie I've ever seen. It's better than Poltergeist, better than The Shining, better than The Amityville Horror. There. I've said it.

It's a combination of things, really-the story itself, of course-the absolutely frightening scenario of a sentient house- and the perfect film quality that I love so much about 70's horror.  I was overjoyed when Valancourt Books released a new edition of this tale, and snatched it right up. It revolves around the Rolfes who, tired of their cramped Queens apartment, head all the way out to the tip of Long Island to enjoy a gorgeous, if run-down, summer home. Mrs. Rolfe, an antiques freak, is ecstatic, even though Mr. Rolfe knows it's too good a deal to be true, and the owners, the Allardyces, are a bit eccentric, leaving their dear mother holed up at the top of the house to be cared for, but rarely if ever seen.

The chauffeur, for example, came across much better
in the film. Just look at that smile!

Reading the slim volume, I felt I did not enjoy this as much as I would have if the story were fresh to me. The film I love so much hews very close to the book, you see, so there really weren't any surprises. Although, the things this house does to keep its guests polarized from each other are certainly unique from other stories of haunted houses. What I appreciated more in the nuance of the writing was the depth of that polarization. You see, even in the slow start to the horror, that a vacation that was meant to allow the Rolfe family some quality time together actually tears them apart. More of the responsibility of that is laid at Mrs. Rolfe's feet, who increasingly chooses the house, and everything in it, over the pleas of her husband, aunt, and young son. When things start getting downright scary, she denies, ignores, conceals..anything to keep her from giving up what she's always dreamed of. And then there's Mrs. Allardyce, and the incessant humming noise that emanates from her room.

A happily married couple-yeah, right.

Without spoiling it for anyone (the book or the film), there were certain things that were more powerful in the film, because the visuals of certain things struck the right mood, but the book did end on a darker note than the film did. As a mother myself, who may or may not have some of the same interests in gloriously old houses, I was disturbed.

I highly recommend both of these works.

K Rating: 9/10

Friday, April 21, 2017

To Beta or Not to Beta?

That is a question many new authors ask themselves, as we all try to find out who we are as writers: our style, our voice, our audience, even our genre. Submitting your work to other people for feedback is something many people do, if they are able, but there is a debate in the writing community about how useful this is. Is it necessary for other people to read your work before you...query, submit, publish? Does anyone's opinion matter but yours?

As I said in my last post, I just finished the initial draft of my next book, Bog Body (previous working title Up from the Bog), a dark romantic fantasy, and I'm typing it up to get it ready for...Beta reading. This is the sixth manuscript that I've finished (1 nonfiction monograph, 3 novels, 2 novellas), and the sixth time that I am sharing my work with others before I consider it "finished," in a state ready for querying. As I take a little breather from writing and start to reflect on my various projects, polishing them before moving on to other concepts, I'd like to share my thoughts on the next potential step in the writing process.. Here are four benefits of using Betas, and four drawbacks.

THE BENEFITS OF BETAS

Fresh Eyes

Sometimes your mind and your eyes are in such great sync that you miss your own mistakes. It could be something minor like a typo, or it could be a turn of phrase you thought was eloquent (and therefore overused), or, in the case of a fantasy story, you might have made a logical leap in reality, and left the readers without access to mind-reading behind. Another reader will see only what's on the paper, not in your head. This is good, because you can see if those things match up, and what it might take to make them match, to give the reader the reaction to your work you wanted them to have.

Objectivity
All readers are subjective, yes. But only you love your story the way you do. Another, unfeeling person will tell you what resonated with them and what didn't, and point you, sometimes painfully, to the things that fell flat. Even if you loved them. A certain level of emotional detachment is necessary sometimes to elicit the best product. I have a tendency to hang on to turns of phrase that I like, even when they're no longer relevant. Someone else telling you it doesn't work for them will help you get over the hump of attachment, and force you to be the best writer you can be.

Confidence
A good Beta will do exactly as I just said: tell you what worked, and what didn't. In an industry that is centered on rejection, and usually with no explanation to accompany it, it's important for budding writers to know that, no, what you wrote may not be perfect, or ready for general consumption, BUT..it had a good premise, believable dialogue, nice worldbuilding...fill in the blank. That kind of feedback can be essential to hear, and I've found personally that it can be a guiding force to figuring out my own personal voice.


Examples:  "I didn't appreciate the humor": Know your limitations. "The descriptions made me feel like I was really there"  Go all in. "It feels more like fantasy, less like romance." Now I know what I'm writing, and how to pitch it.

The good things Betas tell you can help you know yourself, know your audience, and know what to lead with when talking to potential readers, reviewers, agents, and publishers. And let's face it, we all need help doing that.

Patterns

This encompasses two different things: your patterns as a writer, and patterns in your feedback. Another reader will notice your tendencies, good or bad.

Examples: "You use the word 'seem' a lot," "your dialogue often starts with 'well,'" "most of the sentences being with 'I'," "you tend to use passive instead of active voice," "you confuse your tenses a lot." Being aware of these things gives you the choice of what to do about it.

Secondly, Betas can provide feedback in patterns. If you have two or three people responding to the same passages in the same way...you should be paying attention. One Beta alone is not enough--a few good ones will do the trick, though.

Now as I said, all writers are different, and perform differently with different methods. Betas...hell, writing careers in general... are not for the thin-skinned, and therefore should be used with caution by those who are more sensitive to the opinions of others. Here are FOUR drawbacks of using Beta Readers.

Self-Doubt

This is the biggest problem. If you have a hard time seeing past what didn't work, even the best-intentioned notes can wreak havoc on your self-esteem. If it's serious enough, it may discourage you from writing altogether. But if you love to write, you shouldn't stop.

Confusion

Patterns among Betas are great, and can be really useful. But in the real world, everybody has their own opinion. If you get a slew of readers who say conflicting things, that can leave you in a pickle. Then you have to do the hard, sometimes impossible work of figuring out why something may have worked for one person and not another. If your Beta is a friend or relative, you might be able to guess, but sometimes the best Betas are found in online communities like Facebook or Goodreads, so it's not a guarantee that you'll know your Beta well enough to make that call. In those cases, you can feel like you're back at square one.

Deadbeat Betas

I hate it when this happens. You send your stuff out to someone, all excited that you'll finally get some feedback...and then nothing. It happens. A lot. Even with friends and family (especially with friends and family-jk love you guys!). Then what? Hound them? No, that's not sending the right message. Be forever angry? In some families, that works. In an I-talian family like mine, someone's always mad at somebody, but who cares? Then again, it can put you in a perpetual state of feeling "unready" to face the world. Then you agonize about why they didn't finish. That confidence in Betas thing can be a real double-edged sword.

Overly Critical Betas

This can also be a problem, and you should always try to figure out what you want out of a Beta and set the tone before waiting for notes (Questionnaires that address your own concerns can be helpful, and make the Beta pay attention where you want them to.) It is the nature of some people to point out every flaw (which you want, of course, you want complete feedback), but you want someone who will do it in a way that is constructive. Constructive criticism is the name of the game: it's a form of support that is challenging, but ultimately rewarding. If you get a Beta whose sole response to your work is "It was a waste of my time, you should stop wasting yours," then unfriend that person immediately. There will always be people who don't like your work, and that's just life, but you want a Beta who avidly reads the genre you write in, and can try to show you how your work fits into that whole in the mind of a reader. This is why sometimes online acquaintances are best. It's so easy to find people with like-minded interests, and the result will be better than if you, say, foist your steamy romances on a hubby who never read a romance book in his life, even if he's willing (thanks, by the way-love you too).


There you have it folks. Me personally, I have been bred with a tough skin from academia, so I can handle the heat of my Betas. And I know it has made me a better writer. Whether the pros outweigh the cons is for you is for each author to decide. Ultimately, how much the voices of others matter is up to you. They are the Betas, but YOU are the Alpha.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Deceptively Beautiful - The Queen of the Night

I'm super proud (and relieved!) to be finished with the first draft of my standalone WIP,  Up from the Bog. I'll be polishing the first draft in preparations for betas, but first I must Type.It.Up. Before I throw myself headlong into that, I scratched the itch that has been digging at me for the last third of the book or so, to read. I'll be doing that like a maniac until I can feel normal again. Book abstinence has driven me partially insane, where for the past two days I kind of forgot I had a life while I blew through the 500+ pages of Alexander Chee's The Queen of the Night.

I'd been anticipating reading this book from my shelf for some time-I'm a sucker for stories of intrigue within the art world-in this case, the opera world. Lilliet Berne, a world-renowned singer with a rare and delicate Falcon voice, believes the secrets of her life to be discovered when a stranger presents her with a new opera, a story of her own life, in which she would originate the role, the greatest honor for an opera diva.

Lilliet runs through the options of who might have finally divulged her secret, telling her story with each of these characters in turn: as she says, one who loved her, one who owned her, one who is dead, and one she hopes never thinks of her at all. The language is lyrical, hypnotic, carefully crafted, and I laud the effort to mimic the narrative structures of a variety of opera throughout the course of the book. I was drawn deeper and deeper with fine details and the tremendous research of 19th-century Paris, its opera house, and major political players.

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women
merely players
-that's what Lilliet would have us believe
But the beauty of the words is a thick veil, and masks the flaws in narrative tension and development of character. The premise presented on the flap of the book is merely a frame story, for 90% of the book is consumed with Lilliet Berne's past. It robs that intrigue of its urgency, and since all these tales are Lilliet's secrets, it's easy to forget that they are secrets at all-in fact, almost every character you encounter seems to know exactly who she is and how she came to be an opera giant. So the fear with which she tries to decipher the thin mystery feels overly dramatic. Her memories likewise suffer from not being immediate or urgent for, after all, we know she will one day find herself where the book begins, singing to worshipping audiences at a lavish ball at Luxemborg Palace. And those past stories, though well-crafted, are sadly not so original, or shocking. They can be powerful because they are sad, not because I wasn't expecting it. It's nothing like the tension that grips me when reading Wilkie Collins. Now that man had secrets.

The many travails of a courtesan-
This book reminded me a lot of
du Maurier's Mary Anne
Much of Lilliet's sorrows are of her own making. Which isn't a flaw, per se, but throughout the telling of her whole life, she lives under the delusion that she is a caged bird, her fate determined by the powerful figures surrounding her. Many times, I found it easy to see how her story could have been different, how she did, in fact, have choices. She is not as controlled as she pretends to be, only she surrenders to the will of others-for vanity, mostly-for jewels, fine dresses, and the fame of a diva. Freedom, happiness, and a simple life are only out of reach because she makes it so. That pattern of decision-making does not change, even as she continues to encounter the same figures, and falls in with those who would exploit her terribly time and again, instead of resorting to: flight, murder, her on again off again deception of being mute, liquidating her assets, or forgiving the sins of others for which she is also guilty. Honestly-how is a courtesan upset about her lover doing the same?

In the end, I cannot be as sorry for her as I believe I'm meant to be, simply because I did not see any virtue in her choices-she could have been happy, had she been brave. I was left wishing for more heroism, and more of the darkness and fantasy that the original premise suggested. In truth, what this book needed was a little more Phantom.

K Rating: 7/10
**New Author Goal** 7 out of 30





Sunday, April 9, 2017

Shoulda Stopped at Three - Into the Fire

Books with shirtless men are normally not my thing. Don't get me wrong - I rarely pass up a tale with a romantic thread in it, given that the context is of interest-something gothic, fantastical, supernatural, or historical. But I have extremely high reading standards, especially in regards to the actual craft of writing, and lots of seemingly good concepts (like vampires) are largely wasted on people who couldn't write something worth reading to save their lives.

The Night Prince series by Jeaniene Frost came into my orbit by accident, but once I set myself to try it, I read books 1-3 within a week or two. I was able to forgive instances of lazy writing when they were balanced by explosive romantic tension between Vlad Tepesh (yes, the real one, we're told), and Leila, a girl whose body is a constant conduit for enormous amounts of electrical power. The fantasy-action oriented plot was continuous over the course of the series, and though impractical most times, it held together the romance story nicely. As usual, by the end of the third book, one problem was solved, but another was just beginning. Vlad, the chauvinistic, medieval prick, finally buckles to his love for Leila, who, despite solving most of her own problems, is repeatedly kidnapped and tortured. Those darker strains of the plot are interesting, but when Frost tries to pack in too much supernatural ability and too many characters, a lot of things get lost in the shuffle.

Into the Fire, the last installment of this series, was the most disappointing of the bunch, and the many flaws dramatically outweighed its good points. Leila is magically tied to Vlad's stepson Mircea, the mastermind behind the betrayal in the last volume. When he gets cut, she gets cut, and vice versa. So when someone kidnaps Mircea to manipulate Vlad, using Leila as a target, the clock is ticking to sever the spell binding them together.

How the couple is meant to achieve that is one of the glaring examples of how thin the plot is. Could the answer lie with magic, necromancy, legacy power, Cherokee mysticism, demonology, vampirism, Egyptian mythology.... So many options are presented that it's hard to keep up. The worst bit:by the end, it appears that the link is NOT severed. So plot-wise, the book is pointless.

But who cares about plot in these guilty pleasures? You came for the romance, not the plot, right? Well. It's the slimmest in this volume above all others. Apparently marrying the characters drained them of their romantic interest - another myth this book abuses. Deeper than that, there's no character development here. The tension in the earlier books worked because you watched Vlad struggle to accept, and then express his emotions, without being an overbearing idiot that puts Leila at risk even as he tries to save her. The impression of their current relationship: Vlad isn't changing his destructive ways, and Leila is going to live with it. I'm sorry, but no. That's not how marriage works. That's not how character development works.

Finally- to refer to Dracula as drivel is a laugh. Without that "drivel," this book wouldn't exist. There's a reason that an ultimate work of mood and genre has never been out of print for more than a century.

The purpose of new books in a series is to give you at least a little something new. I feel cheated.

K Rating: 1/10

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Specter of the Indian - Cover Reveal!

I'm super pleased to share the cover of my nonfiction book, The Specter of the Indian: Race, Gender, and Ghosts in American Seances, 1848-1890 with you. It's being released in September by SUNY Press, and I could not be more thrilled with this first impression.






Here's the summary from SUNY Press's website:

The Specter of the Indian unveils the centrality of Native American spirit guides during the emergent years of American Spiritualism. By pulling together cultural and political history; the studies of religion, race, and gender; and the ghostly, Kathryn Troy offers a new layer of understanding to the prevalence of mystically styled Indians in American visual and popular culture. The connections between Spiritualist print and contemporary Indian policy provide fresh insight into the racial dimensions of social reform among nineteenth-century Spiritualists. Troy draws fascinating parallels between the contested belief of Indian as fading from the world, claims of returned apparaitions, and the social impetus to provide American Indians with a means of existence in white America. Rather than vanishing from national sight and memory, Indians and their ghosts are shown to be ever present. This book transports the readers into dimly lit parlor rooms and darkened cabinets and lavishes them with detailed seance accounts in the words of those who witnessed them. Scrutinizing the otherworldly whisperings heard therein highlights the voices of mediums and those they sought to channel, allowing the author to dig deep into Spiritualist belief and practice. The influential presence of Indian ghosts is made clear and undeniable.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Silent Hill meets the Twilight Zone - The Shock Labyrinth

Asian cinema is one of the few subgenres of horror where not only do I expect things to lean towards the weird side, I hope for it. The premise to Takashi Shimizu's The Shock Labyrinth (2009) is deceptively simple. A group of schoolkids visit a dark ride, and revisit it again as young adults, minus the girl who died the first time around. Without revealing almost everything cool about what happens in this film, it was compelling to watch because the fear factors were very similar to the concepts of survival horror seen in the Silent Hill game franchise. The most mundane things can be the scariest, when they do impossible things -red balloons floating in decrepit bathroom stalls, a ratty backpack of a stuffed bunny flying through the halls, a woman perpetually climbing a spiral staircase only to fall down it again with a sickening thud.

The group has still not gotten over their traumatic experiences the first time through this ride, but when the friend who should be dead appears out of nowhere, they find themselves back where they began. The past is never very far from them, and those lines are continually blurred in compelling, and yes, shocking ways. By the end of the film, all the disparate images that you see become clearer in their meaning and significance, holding your interest for all the time spend in such a very small, but brilliantly crafted, set. There is deliberation in every scene that is overwhelmingly impressive. It's that kind of artistic effort that keeps me coming back to Shimizu's work over and over again.

Rating: 8/10


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

That's the Best You Could Do? - House of Bathory


I was not entirely impressed by Linda Lafferty's The Bloodletter's Daughter, (see my review here), but neither was I entirely put off by its flaws. No work is perfect, and based on the topics and themes Lafferty writes about, I imagine we'd get along swimmingly in real life. Ready to give her another shot, I went for House of Bathory, hoping for even better writing, on an even darker topic. I was sadly disappointed.


The book splits the narrative between two periods: the early 17th century, in the days immediately preceding Countess Bathory's arrest for her heinous crimes, and the present day. This seems to be more common in historical fiction nowadays, I've noticed, and I usually shy away from this kind of storytelling because, frankly, I don't give a damn about the here and now-fictionally speaking. But I'm not averse to trying new things.

The split between the Countess's household and a psychologist in Colorado was so divergent it was painful. There's supposed to be a link between the host of characters in both times, but because of the overarching theme of Jungian analysis and synchronicity (essentially, meaning in parallels), the execution of the connecting threads was so transparent they felt contrived. It was more like Lafferty forced the characters to have these connections because, if they're not connected, then why are they in the same book? And there's your answer. They shouldn't be.

The tale of the Countess's final days of cruelty, the inner-workings of her household, where some people blindly, obliviously follow orders, and others delight in them, was the best the book had to offer. But even there, I felt a great deal of untapped potential. Especially in the horsemaster Janos, who is described as a man of intense supernatural power, except we never really see that in action, and I would have welcomed such a thing. Because the book constantly flips back and forth between the past and the present, there's not really a plot so to speak in the past-it's more of a simple retelling of what transpired. Which is sad.


The plot derived mostly from the modern segments, but the plot of Dr. Elizabeth Path connecting with a teenage goth patient to recover her mother was not really compelling. The kidnapping, the psychotic serial killer copying the Countess's crimes, all that fell flat for me. And her telling of madness doesn't even come close to the nuances I praised in The Bloodletter's Daughter. The ex-husband as a sidekick was a complete afterthought, like someone told her the story needed a romance thread so she added one. He was useless. I certainly wasn't compelled by a relationship that I never saw break apart, and didn't grow appreciably- since, you know, they're busy chasing serial killers.

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At least this scene was depicted
The thing that killed me the most was the formatting. Who the hell has 100+ chapters in a regularly sized book? A few paragraphs does not a chapter make. Now I understand wanting to start a new chapter every time you switch timezones, but there were also breaks based on which character she was focusing on-on the very same day! So, December 28, 1610 had three or four chapters, each maybe a page give or take, one focused on the cook, or the horsemaster, or the handmaiden, and sometimes no break at all. Literally, a conversation would stop and start again at the same place between one chapter and the next. There's a lot of empty space on those pages- a colossal waste of paper.

It's a shame, but I think I've given Lafferty enough latitude to impress me, and I've been left wanting. Life's too short to read so-so books.

Rating: 3/10