This is Lucy Hope’s debut novel and what a brilliant one it is: seemingly the author has a rare kind of imagination.
Perched on a rocky cliff deep in the Bavarian Forest is a house like no other: it’s 1900 and now owned by a self-absorbed opera singer mother who spends almost all her time rehearsing. This place is home to Cassie Engel (who narrates the story), her parents and her dying grandmother who is attended once a week by two seemingly sinister nurses known as Crunch and Grind. The house is full of amazing inventions: steam-powered lifts with foot brakes, mechanical morphine pumps, winches, pulleys, and has a whole storey for her erstwhile great-great grandfather’s collection of stuffed owls which now belongs to her father, whose hobby is taxidermy.
Into this strange abode one stormy night through Cassie’s bedroom window, is blown a little cherub to which Cassie feels immediately drawn.
Its arrival sets in motion a chain of weird, sometimes terrifying events. Cassie’s best friend Raphael starts to act differently – a transformation is slowly occurring, while outside in the forest is a growing sense of brooding and malevolence. Then there are the sinister Sturmfalken, the stuff of nightmares.
Cassie it seems is attempting to deal with so much on her own: she’s terrified and she, like the reader, never knows what will happen next. The tension builds as weird discoveries are made: discoveries that send Cassie and Raphael to the dusty castle library to research long-held secrets of the Engel family—dark secrets that are now closing in on the family.
Can Cassie do anything to save them? It’s certainly going to take a great deal of courage and entail accepting who she, her family and best friend are.
However, family love -complex as it may be – is a powerful driving force, so too is the love of Raphael; but prepare yourself for a shock final revelation as the story reaches its dramatic climax. Will light win over the power of darkness?
A superbly crafted gothic novel: the characterisation is superb and like this reviewer, you’ll find likely find yourself unable to put it down once you start reading.