Review – The Hawley Book of the Dead

Cover of The Hawley Book of the DeadThe Hawley Book of the Dead, Chrysler Szarlan
Received to review via Netgalley

This sounded great when I originally requested it; I’d forgotten most of that by the time I picked it up, but I was still interested. The set-up is great: the creepy/historic house and village, the magic in the family, the magic tricks on the stage, the mysterious Fetch coming after the family. The setting is great; I could easily picture both the theatre for the performance at the beginning of the story, and the little abandoned town in New England.

But. The family. There were details that seemed meant to be vivid — the black/white clothes of the twins, the red hair, the string Caleigh uses… it felt flat to me, and so did the described emotion. If the numbness after a loss was what I was meant to feel vicariously, then that would have worked, but there was also fear, a desire for vengeance, anger, and those didn’t come across to me.

Perhaps worst of all, this reminded me too much of Joanne Harris’ Chocolat (the woman fleeing bad magic with her children, the magic running in the family), The Night Circus (the magic, but here without the enchantment), and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. It didn’t feel “rich”, as the blurb on Goodreads had it. I can’t say it was terrible, but it was just so… flat.

Rating: 2/5

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