It is no small matter, after all, to create something - to make it so only by setting down the words. We forget the magnitude, sometimes, of that miracle.
Mr. Crowe was once the toast of the finest salons. A man of learning and means, he travelled the world, enthralling all who met him. Now Mr. Crowe devotes himself to earthly pleasures. He has retreated to his sprawling country estate, where he lives with Clara, his mysterious young ward, and Eustace, his faithful manservant.
His great library gathers dust, and his once magnificent gardens grow wild. But Mr. Crowe and his extraordinary gifts have not been entirely forgotten. When he acts impetuously over a woman, he attracts the attention of Dr. Chastern, the figurehead of a secret society to which Crowe still belongs.
Chastern comes to Crowe's estate to call him to account, and what follows will threaten everyone he cares for. But Clara possesses gifts of her own, gifts whose power she has not yet fully grasped. She must learn to use them quickly if she is to save them all.
Read by Mike Grady and Imogen Wilde.
©2016 Paraic O'Donnell (P)2016 Orion Publishing Group
This is a strange book, where all is not as it seems. Not quite to the extent of Alice in Wonderland, but in a similar, less extreme vein. There is some beautiful, almost poetic writing and the characters feel like players in a period piece, such as Jane Eyre.
In the opening scenes we meet Mr Crowe, whose behaviour is particularly heavy-handed and who sets in motion a series of events that he appears to have very little control over. His manservant, Eustace is left to pick up the pieces and attempt to minimise the damage, but eventually, Crowe is called to account by the creepy Dr Chastern and his nasty sidekick, Nazaire.
Several questions are left unanswered, such as who really was Mr Crowe? He appears to be an elderly (centuries old?) author of sorts, who has lost his motivation and now spends his time in a rambling old house with a woman who he picked up at a night club. Two other people live with him - his mute ward, Clara, who also possesses mysterious powers, and the devoted Eustace.
Eustace has his own backstory but this part I found less captivating. Ditto Clara's captivity, both of which form the second part of the book. I would have liked Clara to have had some backstory too. The ending was unfortunately a bit rushed, though maybe the author had backed himself into a corner by this time. For me it was the magic and mystery of the first half of the book that earned this novel its four stars.
I don't think I would have enjoyed this story so much if I'd read it in hard copy but I was listening to an Audible version, which was beautifully narrated by Mike Grady and Imogen Wilde. My only niggle with the narration was that Ms Wilde did not have enough variation in her voices and so Nazaire sounded very much like Arabella.
This book, judging by the extensive list of press quotes, promised much and, to a point seemed to deliver. The story draws you in with its exciting and dramatic opening and then pads swiftly along in enigmatic style. This is, for me, the nub of the problem; it is so enigmatic that much is implied but never actually said. There are so many loose ends and unanswered questions that it left me, as the reader / listener, wondering what on earth happened. It is as though there was more text that has been carefully edited out to leave you puzzled and strangely dissatisfied. Which is a great shame as this could have been an exceptionally good novel, up there with The Night Circus, The Golem & The Djinni, and works of Mr Gaiman. Instead we are left with a jigsaw with several pieces missing.
I cannot fault, however, the performances by Mike Grady and Imogen Wilde, which do much to prop up what would otherwise be a laboured tale.
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