Liz Currently Loves…The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan


Publication Date: 23rd October 2014 from Randomhouse UK/Cornerstone.

Source: Netgalley

Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

I do love a bit of magical mayhem, a story set in a place we understand but with hidden gems just below the surface  – Chrysler Szarlan’s “The Hawley Book of the Dead” does this to perfection, using one character, Reve, to ground the story whilst building up around her an enchanting and spellbinding world of mystery, mythology and magic.

“On the day I killed my husband, the scent of lilacs startled me awake.”

….is the first thing Reve tells us and from that perfect set up flows a beautifully constructed and addictive tale, with some terrific characters and clever world building that transports you to another reality.  Reve and her husband have a very popular magic show, one day a terrible accident occurs and her husband is lost. Danger lurks so Reve moves her family back to Five Corners, hoping to be safe and to take time to heal from the tragedy. However things are about to take a sinister turn as Reve discovers more about her family history and the implications of events that occurred many years before.

I really did love how this one flowed from the page – you are caught up in a rollercoaster ride as Reve struggles to protect her girls, find out the truth of her background and fight the evil that stalks her…using a combination of stories told to her as a child, her own past experiences and what is happening right now, the story unfolds in a fascinating and often eerie way…and boy will it keep you turning those pages.

There is some intelligent and imaginative mythology created here, the author managing to fill in the background slowly but surely in a way that is very satisfying indeed. The sense of place is extremely well done with some wonderful descriptive prose, I was fascinated by the hidden layers of the places the characters inhabit. Some elegantly drawn characters can be found alongside Reve, all adding to the whole and I particularly loved “Nan” with her mysterious and often frustrating habit of talking around a given subject.

Particularly engaging for me was the thread of the tale that dealt with magic shows, the staging of such things, the work that goes into it and the planning, I found it absolutely riveting, a whole other world in itself.

Overall then a fantastic magical read, one that I would definitely recommend and I hope very much to meet Reve again in further stories. We shall see!

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Happy Reading Folks!

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