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Monday, August 26, 2013

Shivery Setting + Compelling Premise Should = Intriguing Ghost Story, Right? Eh, Not So Much.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A lifelong resident of Roanoke Island, Miranda Blackwood's heard the story of the lost colonists a million times.  As an intern at the Waterside Theater, the 17-year-old even spends her evenings reenacting the tale for eager tourists.  It's not passion for local history that drives her (although her family has its own place in Roanoke lore), it's desperation—she (almost) literally has nothing else to do.  The name Blackwood is synonymous with witchcraft, sorcery and freaks.  Friends aren't exactly pounding on Miranda's door, eager to hang out.  With only her golden retriever to keep her company, she leads a lonely life of work, school and babysitting her alcoholic father.  

Then, Miranda sees something strange: the ghostly outline of an old-fashioned ship sailing through the night sky.  She tries to shake off the frightening image, but when island residents—114 of them, to be exact—start disappearing, she can't deny that something odd is happening on Roanoke Island.  Again.  The number of missing cannot possibly be a coincidence.  Something terrible happened to the colonial settlers and something equally as disturbing is happening now.  Is some ancient evil stalking the people of Roanoke?  And why?  What does it want from the island?  With the unlikely help of a reform school dropout who hears the voices of the dead, Miranda's determined to find out.  And fast.  Before this new crop of victims vanishes, never to be heard from again.  

I love me a good ghost story, especially one set in an already mysterious locale like Roanoke Island.  An intriguing setting, plus an original premise should be enough to lift any tale from so-so to stupendous.  In the case of Blackwood, a debut novel by Gwenda Bond?  Eh, not so much.  The plot moves fast enough, but it's full of holes and predictable moves by characters who just aren't that compelling.  Plus, it's far-fetched.  And I'm not even talking about the ghosts.  So, yeah, while I loved both the setting and the premise of Blackwood, I didn't care much for the rest of the novel.  A bummer, because I really, really wanted to love this one.  Ah, well.    

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing's coming to mind.  Suggestions?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder invectives) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Blackwood from the generous folks at Strange Chemistry via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!

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