I was offered an ARC copy of this novel, that I had been after for some time, and I enthusiastically decided to review it as soon as I was able to.
I have followed Teagan Geneviene’s blog for a few years and have long been amazed by her creativity and her power to weave stories from the most unlikely jumble of elements, always rising to the challenges set by her readers, and writing by the seat of her pants. I am inclined to think there is some kind of magic at work, and I am not surprised by the genre she has chosen for her novels.
I have read and reviewed several of her books (you can check my most recent review of one of her serials here) and have long been a fan of her first-novel, Atonement, Tennessee (you can check my review, here). I had been waiting for the next instalment of the series for some time and had eagerly read any stories and snippets the author has shared in her blog about the Atonement universe. And I jumped at the opportunity to read an ARC copy of this novel, the second one in the series.
The author has tried to make this book stand alone, to ensure that anybody who started reading the series at this point would be given enough background to follow the events and enjoy the narrative, without slowing down those of us familiar with the story. Having read the first novel a while back and having reread it recently, I am probably not the best person to comment, but, in my opinion, she succeeds, although I would recommend anybody considering the purchase of this novel to go ahead and get the whole series, as they will be able to more fully appreciate the plot twists and the character development that take place in the series. And there are some companion stories available that you will enjoy as well.
The story is told from two different points of view, as was the case with the first novel. We have Lilith, Esmeralda’s (Ralda for short) calico cat, whose narrative is told in the third-person, and whose personality (her likes and dislikes, her strong opinions, and, indeed, her all-appropriate curiosity) shines through even more than in the first novel. She is witness to a number of events that allow the reader to be slightly ahead of Ralda at some points, but also increase the suspense and the expectations. She is not a human narrator and her understanding of events is often puzzling for us, so her clues are a bit like cryptic crossword prompts, familiar and alien at the same time. She gets involved in some hair-raising adventures of her own, and the end of the novel hints at many interesting things to come for our favourite feline narrator.
Ralda is the other narrator, and she tells the story in the first person. Those of us who have read the first novel know that she is a Southerner at heart, although she has spent many not-very-happy years in Washington DC. Atonement, Tennessee proves to be anything but the quiet and charming little town she imagines at first, secrets and supernatural events abound, and most of them centre on her house and her family line. She is a woman of strong intuition, but there is more to the events unfolding around her than a sixth sense. If the first novel saw her teetering between real-world difficulties (the move, the state of her house, the problems of her new-found friends), and some strange and decidedly supernatural events, in this second novel she at first suspects, and later comes to realise, that in Atonement, Tennessee, there is no clear separation between the “normal” and the “supernatural”. One of the things that make her a very compelling character, apart from her lack of ego and her self-deprecating sense of humour, is her open spirit and her ability to experience the wonder of the world around her. By her own confession, she has suffered the nasty side of things and people, and she at times appears overcautious and paranoid, but she is unable to say no to anybody needing help, and no matter how hard she resists, she finds it difficult to believe the worst of anybody. She might hesitate, but she will get in harm’s way if any of those close to her are in danger (and that includes Lilith, of course).
As for the plot… After taking stock of what happened in the first novel, things start getting interesting very soon. Some of the characters we thought we knew are revealed not to have been how they looked like at first (some for the better, some for the worse), and we have quite a few new characters turn up, some supernatural without a doubt (including my beloved glowing pigs), and others… well, I’ll leave you to see what you think. But there are unrequited loves, magical objects (one of my favourite things, both in fantasy and in the horror genre), some very Shakespearian turns of events, kidnappings, natural (or supernatural) wonders, and a fantastic battle scene (and I won’t reveal anything else).
Although the storyline is complete in itself and the events that unfold during the book get a resolution (and a more than satisfying one, I might add), there are mysteries still to be solved, some new ones hinted at, and I can’t wait to read the next book. If you love fantasy, supernatural events, folklore, myths and legends, Shakespeare, and appreciate a wild-tale full of imagination, you’ll be delighted by this book. I know I was.