There are monsters in the world. When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She 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. There are monsters in the woods. 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… There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name. 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.
I heard gothic lake novel and was ready to read it that second. I know that’s kind of a running theme with me, finding out one or two aspects of a book and being ready to read it right away. But it’s true every time! And a gothic lake novel definitely sounds like it would be right up my alley. Plus, it is about Leta, the main character, arriving at a mansion and expecting to find a monster inside, a boy who drowned his entire family. But neither is what they seem to be. I sounded incredibly intriguing! Trigger warnings: parental abuse, grief, self-harm magic
I really wanted to love this book, even while I was reading it. I really, really hate saying it, but I did not love this book. Despite how much I wanted to. I think it just wasn’t for me, and I think a lot of people will love it!
One of the main reasons I wanted to love this book was the writing. It was lyrical and slightly haunting, and just downright gorgeous. It truly is an amazingly written book, and I think that is one of the main reasons that I read the whole thing.
I also enjoyed Arien, Leta’s little brother, and Clover, an alchemist who lives at Lakesedge. Both were adorable, and queer! Florence was another highlight. She felt very motherly. I also really loved Rowan. I dunno, I think I’m just a sucker for tortured guys with long dark hair. But he was a fantastic character. He carries so much pain and weight on his shoulders. I just really, really liked him. I think I liked Leta, but I’m a bit undecided about her. I liked her, but I’m still figuring my feeling about her. I think it will take the sequel to figure them all out.
Speaking of the sequel, I think this book would have worked as a standalone. There is more story to tell in the next book (obviously, because there is a next book), but I feel like this book would have benefitted being a standalone, to really dig into what it wanted to do here.
I think one of the reasons I didn’t fall completely in love with this one is because I didn’t feel that complete dug in feeling towards the plot. It felt like the book was trying to do a lot of things, a lot of them done very well, but there was a lot going on. I couldn’t quite parse out exactly what this book was trying to do. I felt like some things weren’t explained to their full potential.
For example, I felt like the magic system could have been more developed. I felt like it sort of came out of nowhere and the rules were just rules, instead of inner workings of the world.
I also felt like some plot points popped in and out of the story when they needed to, instead of being ingrained throughout it. Because of that, I felt like some of the emotional impact was lost. It was hard to become invested in the plot, in the characters, and in the relationships. I felt like the foreshadowing was off, and could have been spread throughout the book instead of what felt like chunks here and there.
In the beginning, to me, it felt like the pacing was a bit fast. Really, it felt like a lot of things happened very fast in the beginning and towards the middle. The romance, and the overall plot. Things did even out towards the end, and I felt like the story settled into what it wanted to and where it wanted to go.
I know it sounds like I hated this book, but I promise I didn’t! It had so many things I loved in it, but just arranged in a way that didn’t quite work for me. I am curious as to what the sequel is going to be, since I felt like this could have been a very strong standalone. Maybe my thoughts will change with how the sequel progresses. If I read the sequel haha.
Overall, my feelings towards this book are complicated. I think my frustration with it stems from the fact that I really, really wanted to love it and the potential for me to love it was there. But I just didn’t fall head over heels for it. There were just some things that I didn’t really love. But the writing is gorgeous, and I think a lot of people will fall in love with the aspects that just weren’t for me!