(review was originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com)
As you can see with the little banner above (click if you want more details), I read this book for The Women of Fantasy bookclub. :) I've been wanting to read work by Cherie Priest for awhile; her steampunk novels (The Clockwork Century series) seems to be really popular on the internet. This is a little different, being more on the Horror and Paranormal side, but I was more than happy to sample Priest with her debut. And I have to say, for a debut, this novel is *awesome*. After reading this, I can't wait to read more Priest.
First off, Priest's writing: it's amazing. The first half of the novel, where the reader follows Eden through her childhood and young adolescence was really engaging. It was also really creepy. I'm not scared easily when it comes to watching horror movies, or reading scary stories; they usually bore me actually. But this book gave me chills. Especially the scene where Eden and her friend go to the bathroom at the summer camp.
The second half of the novel was considerably less chill-inducing, but I think that was because Eden was a lot more accustomed to the paranormal things happening around her, and that comes through her first-person narration. Eden still gets freaked out every once in awhile though, and those scenes still got to me. The scene at the abandoned mental hospital where Eden's mother died comes to mind. That was another scene that had me gripping my e-reader quite tightly. It is too bad that this second half loses that... creepy feeling that permeates the first half though. It's still good of course, just not as good. The tension remains pretty high throughout the course of the entire novel, and even when you think all the secrets have been revealed, there's another layer to be revealed, which keeps the pages turning.
I have to say that I really appreciated how Eden is a character who is actually afraid at times. For the most part, she's pretty fearless, but some things still get to her, and I liked that. I'm really picky when I'm reading kick-ass heroines, because I find a lot of them come off as bitchy, or their toughness and arrogance just irritates me. Eden was a strong and capable young woman without coming off as the annoying kind of tough girl (she did have her moments though; at times she would say kind of corny lines in the face of danger which made me cringe a little -- nothing *horrible* though.) She's also not perfect; she likes to be difficult sometimes just for the sake of it, but come on -- she's in her early twenties and has got some serious shit to cope with. Of course she's going to be a little rebellious. So, overall, I really liked Eden.
Kudos to Priest as well for the setting. I've never read any southern gothic before, but after reading this, I would read more in a heartbeat. The deep south felt so right for this novel, especially the swamp. I didn't think swamps could be so creepy.
Final Verdict: This review is shorter than what I normally write, but I really don't have much more to say. This is a great debut that has great, atmospheric writing, a likable heroine, tons of family secrets and intrigues (Eden's family history will make your head spin, but it's very engrossing), a great setting and will gave me chills because of the overall creepiness permeating the novel (which is hard to do -- I don't scare easily, especially with paranormal stuff.) The second half isn't quite as good as the first, but that isn't to say the second half is bad. Reading about Eden's childhood was just more engaging for me than her adult years. I wholeheartedly recommend this, and I can't wait to get my hands on the next two installs, Wings to the Kingdom and Not Flesh, Nor Feathers. Also, my brother owns Boneshaker, so I'm going to have to get reading that as soon as possible. ;)