A lush, gothic fantasy from debut author Lyndall Clipstone about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.
When Violeta Graceling and her younger brother Arien arrive at the haunted Lakesedge estate, they expect to find a monster. Leta knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn… Now, to save Rowan–and herself–Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.
Content Warnings: May be incomplete, may contain spoilers. Please highlight the paragraph below to view.
Emotional and physical abuse by a parent, body horror, gore and blood(including description of wounds), emesis, discussions of death and grief (no on-page deaths), death of parents and sibling, descriptions of drowning and deep water, drowning-related imagery, self-injury (in the context of a curse that requires regular physical sacrifices), suicidal ideation
Overall rating: 3.25/5
Violeta Graceling makes a bargain in the dark of the woods to save her and her brother, but shadows and nightmares plague Arien after. When the lord Rowan Sylvanan comes to their town to collect tithes, he takes them with him back to the haunted Lakesedge estate, where he’s rumored to have murdered his entire family in cold blood.
This book’s strongest aspect is its atmosphere. The prose is lovely and descriptive, and paints such vivid mental images of secret gardens and magic rituals. The nightmare scenes are haunting and eerie, and the writing style is so engaging. This is a fascinating world with magic and religion tied closely together, however there is minimal worldbuilding and I desperately wanted more than the tantalizing little hints we got. What little we know is so interesting, but I was left with so many questions. I would have loved more lore, perhaps in the form of fables or stories, that lead up to the creation of the religion, as well as more into the magic system. While there are notes of using sigils to harness magic, with Leta’s magic, she just seems to be able to magically do things and I wanted more.
Of the characters, my favorite was Clover, who unfortunately doesn’t have many scenes. She’s an alchemist living with Rowan and working with him to stop the Corruption. She is fun and witty, and though the humor sometimes felt at odds with the sinister atmosphere, it made for some fun scenes. I was not a fan of the main character, Violeta, because she is stubbornly self-sacrificing and refuses to listen to anybody else, though I know a lot of readers enjoy this trope. Though she is young (17), it often felt like she was the younger sibling and her 13 year old brother, Arien, was the older one with his calm responses and logical thinking, and I would like to see him have more of a role in book two. I did appreciate the demisexual rep here, along with the queer rep in Clover and Rowan, though I would have also loved more exploration into her identity and feelings.
This was a fun and atmospheric read that is perfect for the spooky season. It ends on a bit of a sequel (that I believe will be told from Rowan’s POV?) that I will definitely be checking out when it is released. Clipstone’s debut promises many more great books in the future!
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an e-ARC through TBR and Beyond Tours in exchange for an honest review. Vaguely spoilery bits of the review were removed as to not spoil anybody but can be found on Goodreads!
Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide,where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She has a Bachelors in Creative Writing and aGraduate Diploma in Library and Information Management.Her debut novel,LAKESEDGE, will be published by Henry Holt, Titan UK and Pan Macmillan Australiain Fall 2021 with a sequel,FORESTFALL, to publish in Fall 2022. Website – Twitter – Instagram – Goodreads – Spotify