I was sent an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.
As I said in my review of Secret Sky, I had known about this series for a while but never seemed to find the time to read it as more books kept being added to it. After finally reading the first novel, I had the opportunity to read this one, that in effect covers much of the same ground as Secret Sky, but it is told from a different perspective, that of Jackson Delaney, the man who trains Em in the first book, and teaches her quite a number of things (and in case you haven’t read it, I won’t say any more). I must confess that my curiosity was two-fold. On finishing that novel, I think most readers will be left wondering the reasons for Jackson’s behaviour. Although he was never a favourite of mine (he seemed too good to be true and too secretive to be trustworthy), the things we learn about him at the end of the story would make most people reconsider what they had read and make conjectures as to why he had done what he did. As a writer, I was also intrigued about how the author would approach the challenge of telling the same story from a different perspective, or at least, including part of the same story into another story told by somebody else. It is not the same to write a book that includes different perspectives as writing two separate books giving us different accounts of the same story. By using a first-person narrative again, we get inside of the character’s head, and it makes for a very interesting experience, especially if one has read the other book very recently, as you can see the same scene, and read the same dialogue, but interpret it in a completely different way. It must have been a challenge, and I must say that although I read both books back to back and was, therefore, very familiar with the story, the nuances and the change in point of view kept it fresh and intriguing.
This novel talks about families and family relationships, particularly between fathers and sons, although the relationship of Jackson’s wife to her family is also key to the development of the story. The novel opens at the funeral for Jackson’s father, and the author sets the scene beautifully, with great descriptions of the setting, the characters, the funeral arrangements, down to the heat (this is New Orleans in August, and having visited it in September, I can only imagine how suffocating it must be). The author also manages to convey a lot of information about Jackson’s father and his somewhat “dubious” business practices, without making the reader feel there is too much telling. Being inside of Jackson’s head, we share in his perspective and, at least at first, it seems as if he is trying to leave his mark on things and do things more ethically and stand his moral ground, in contrast to his father. (Of course, having read the other book, I had my doubts as to how things would work out, but I think he makes for a very credible character if somebody reads this book first). It doesn’t take long though before it becomes evident that perhaps he is more of his father’s son than he wants to believe, and some of the lessons he learned from his father prove difficult to unlearn, like his lack of confidence and mistrust of women, and his attitude towards family, his and others.
This is another book that has paranormal elements at its heart although, at least at first sight, the novel is set in our everyday world, only with some enhancements and secrets most of us know nothing about. This novel can also be enjoyed by people who don’t often read fantasy, but here we come to realise much sooner than in Secret Sky that the gift can be manipulated and put to uses far from harmless, and we get the perspective of somebody who has grown up with the gift, rather than learning about it with the main character. Jackson moves between both worlds with ease and manages to keep them separate most of the time, but perhaps not as well as he imagines.
I enjoyed reading the same story from a different perspective, although I would not say the book has managed to endear me to Jackson, in particular. He is a solid character, his motivations are plausible, and whatever we might think of his behaviour, he is not all good or all bad. He is quick to think the worst of people; at times he seems cocky and full of confidence but some of his actions and reactions prove he is not as strong and self-confident as he’d like others to believe; he misjudges people often and holds grudges that seem unjustified; he is rather egotistical and thinks of his own interests first; he manipulates others to get what he wants, but he is ambivalent and tries to avoid causing unnecessary harm, can be generous on occasion, and is a dutiful son. His attitude towards women is problematic, but this seems to be part of his inheritance, and yes, we do get the male perspective of the sexual encounters as well (not something I particularly cared for, but like the rest of the book, I thought Jackson’s voice felt genuine and worked well). There is a clear ARC to the character and by the end he has learned a lot about himself, not all of it flattering.
I read a description of the book which mentioned Rashomon and it got me thinking. Rashomon tells the same story from the perspectives of several of the witnesses present, and in this case I wondered how other characters would have seen the events, or rather, thought about Jackson and his actions at the time. But that would be another book. (Just saying!)
The novel also contains questions for book clubs (don’t read them before you read the novel, as there are spoilers) and a glossary of terms that hints at a much more complex world than we have so far glimpsed. That and the description of the rest of the books in the series piqued my curiosity, and I suspect this would not be the last book in the series I read.
I think this book can be enjoyed on its own, and I’d be curious to hear the opinion of somebody who read it without being familiar with the series, but to fully appreciate it I’d recommend reading at least the first of the Gift Legacy series first. A book for readers who enjoy a touch of fantasy and fancy, combined with a good story of family relationships, betrayal, and mystery. And if you like boats and sailing, even better.