I read this after The Promise of Lost Things because I didn’t know they were connected, so my thoughts on this book are influenced by that. I think I liked this one a bit more, though I’m not sure if it was because I already knew Russ and Ian and the town and was curious to know more about certain things.
This was atmospheric and tense. The story was slow, no real action to speak of, not even a super clear goal or idea of whether we were moving toward anything, but there was this feeling of tension and pressure and things building. There were three POV characters—Dec, Annie, and Russ. I could feel Dec’s need to leave the town. I could feel the friendship between Dec and Russ fraying. There was also Russ’s forming addiction to his herbal concoctions, and mysterious secrets coming to light, and Tristan’s (the maybe-ghost haunting Dec) troubles, and Annie’s need to find the Prelude her recently dead mentor wanted to find, and Ian’s (Russ’s dead sort of ex) brother being a dangerous pain in the ass.
I felt like this book succeeded more at making me feel the emotions I was supposed to feel. Because I did feel for Dec. He was struggling ever since his parents died a couple years ago, he was angry, he hated the shady and overbearing Guild, he was reeling from learning secrets and truths he wasn’t expecting, he felt like a failure as a medium, and he felt guilty that he would be leaving people he cared about. He was flawed and believable, and I enjoyed his chapters. I felt for Russ too and got to know him a bit better, though he was still somewhat of an enigma. But still, he was in love with his best friend who would never feel the same way, he was sad but also understanding about his best friend leaving, he wanted so badly to be part of the Guild that he was willing to take risks to achieve it, he too was also shocked by some secrets and truths, he was becoming addicted to his herbal concoctions, he was being haunted by his dead sorta-ex, and he was not good at dealing with difficult emotions. Annie’s POV seemed the calmest. She had a decision to make about her pianist and career and her life, and she was grieving and wanted to find the rest of a specific song for her late mentor, but despite the chaos around her, St. Hilaire made her feel sort of at home. I also got to know Ian a bit more, at least through Russ’s eyes. He’s someone with a lot of confidence and a real presence and ability to get what he wants, though you don’t get to know anything about his struggles or motives in this one.
So maybe not a lot of action, but the book didn’t need that. There was plenty going on between and within the characters to keep me interested.
The audiobook, narrated by Nick Mills (Dec), Kirby Heyborn (Russ), and Brittany Pressley (Annie) was enjoyable. It threw me off a bit that there’s a different narrator for Russ in this one than in Promise, but all three sounded natural and did a great job. The narrator for Dec did especially well at bringing out his sort of frustrated, pent-up vibe. My only issue was that his volume changed too drastically, so I either had to turn it up and feel like I was being shouted at sometimes, or I had to turn it down and couldn’t hear what he was saying sometimes.
This review feels like a mess because I don’t know how to talk about this on its own, it’s too intertwined with The Promise of Lost Things in my mind (which I do think you’ll want to read after this one, assuming you like this, since this one does leave some loose threads). But it was atmospheric and tense and mysterious, all taking place in a town full of ghosts and strange happenings, with flawed, struggling teens I felt for.
Anyone who likes mediums and ghosts, atmospheric books, YA, queer rep, slow-paced books more focused on the characters' relationships and inner lives, and lots of tension and mysteriousness.