If you’re into gothic books that are similar to Jane Eyre, then add The Quiet Stillness of Empty Houses to your TBR.
When Theodora becomes a governess for a little girl in a quiet mansion, she realizes the house and its mysterious lord, Cassius, are full of secrets.
What I liked:
Russell’s words drip with atmosphere! Her writing is lyrical and paints such a vivid picture of the multiple decaying houses in this book. Speaking of which…
The settings almost feel like characters themselves. Theodora’s house, where she lives with her grandmother, is an ancient being falling apart around them. And Broken Oak Manor, where she works, feels like a slumbering giant.
- Ghosts! (Enough said.)
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that Theodora tries to uncover.
Even though Theodora’s father died when she was young, his death plays a pivotal role in Theodora’s character arc.
What I didn’t like as much:
While I generally enjoy slow-paced and character-driven novels, the middle of this book dragged in places.
The romance was just okay for me, and I felt like it could have been developed more!
Pub date: May 15, 2023
Thanks to BookSirens, Quill & Crow Publishing House, and author L.V. Russell for sending me an ARC for review!
One Dark Window is a new adult fantasy that follows Elspeth, who lives in the mist-locked kingdom of Blunder. Elspeth has a secret—after she contracted the infection that gave her illegal magic, she accidentally let a monster called the Nightmare into her head. Now, it lives in the back of her mind and protects her.
But when Elspeth runs into a group of highwaymen, she unexpectedly ends up joining a quest to rid Blunder of its dark magic: a deck of cards called the Providence Cards.
The first topic I want to discuss is the magic system. The idea of a magical deck of cards is very unique, and I really enjoyed how it shaped the worldbuilding and the story. The cards are the only legal way to do magic; each card temporarily gives the user a magical ability.
Now for the worldbuilding. In the beginning of each chapter is a passage or two from a text called the Book of Adlers. This really helped give insight into the culture of Blunder and helped shape the world, as well.
As for the pacing, the beginning is really slow, and it takes a while for everything to be set up before Elspeth can actually go on her quest. But once the quest began, I really enjoyed being on the journey with her.
There’s a romantic subplot, as well. I’m a huge fan of a romantic subplot, and while I did enjoy it, I was hoping for a little more depth. (It’s worth noting that there’s also the fake-dating trope in this book, which I haven’t seen anyone mention!) But I’m hoping the romance doesn’t feel as surface-level in the sequel.
Speaking of sequels, the ending of One Dark Window sets up for a killer second book.
Overall, One Dark Window is a great choice if you’re looking for an atmospheric and gothic read with a unique, dark magic system.
Kingdom of the Feared was the perfect way to kick off October.
It’s the third and final book in the Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy, which follows Emilia, a witch in late 1800s Sicily who accidentally binds herself to one of the wicked princes of Hell who calls himself Wrath.
The thing I appreciated the most in Kingdom of the Feared was the plot. While I really enjoyed the first two books, they were a little lacking in plot, but made up for it in atmosphere. But in this third book, the plot ramped up a lot. Maniscalco added plot twist after plot twist while answering a lot of lingering questions and mysteries. Plus, the overall atmosphere/vibes were still as good.
Yet…the second book, Kingdom of the Cursed is definitely my favorite of the trilogy.
Kingdom of the Feared had one particular trope that I really don’t like. Sure it was resolved, in a way, by the end, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.
Another point worth mentioning is that this book was a little too spicy and repetitive at times. I found myself thinking, We get it! They’re wicked and they’re attracted to each other. And while Emilia’s character arc was good, I found myself wanting more from Wrath’s character.
This, plus the trope issue, knocked my rating down a star.
Note: This book is definitely a new adult/adult book. While the first book in the series could be classified as YA, the series in its entirety is an adult series and should NOT be marketed as YA.