*I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The concept of Yvonthia Leland’s debut novel The Wrythe and the Reckoning is really intriguing: a historical urban fantasy about a teenage girl coming of age, a 19th century New England town terrorized by a (maybe) werewolf-like creature, all set against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements. I like the parts, but they never came together into a cohesive whole.
The biggest hang-up by far for me, and what ultimately prevented me from becoming fully immersed in the story, was the writing style. The descriptions were full of detail, to the point of being mundane, yet never succeeded at evoking any images in my mind; they didn’t “paint the picture.”
The phrasing was often clunky and awkward and redundant; the opening scene of the book describes “leaves overhead above us,” and states that “we were on a journey traveling to our new home, to the city of Boston in Massachusetts.” This was just one of the many sentences my inner editor was just itching to rewrite or throw out completely.
Another disconcerting element was the word choice. For example: “I located my journal and pencil and began to write.” The word “located” just seems like such an oddly formal or unnecessarily neutral way of saying “I picked up my journal,” or simply, “I found my journal,” or if you want to get a little more flashy, “I fished my journal out of my overstuffed carpetbag and began to write.”
Also, if we’re going to the have the narrator-protagonist write about the events of the book in her journal, why not have the entire conceit of the novel be that the book is the journal she’s writing? Sure, it’s done a lot (see I Capture The Castle for my favorite example), but it’s a conceit that would work really well with the setting and with what I think must be an attempt at period language. That’s the only explanation I can think of for the strange, clinical word choices; the more neutral or formal word is often used, but it just ends up reading like an academic essay.
The story itself also never really seemed to get off the ground. This could be because I admittedly just skimmed for most of the book, but nothing much seems to happen. There are some flashbacks with excruciatingly detailed descriptions of the protagonist’s old home and town that read like a travel brochure, and then they arrive in Boston and… that’s about it. They do things, I guess?
They hear reports of a human-like creature in the woods, and there are mysterious deaths, but trust me, it is not as exciting as that sounds. We never really see any action, and then the book just kind of ends. (Because this was an ARC, the last chapter of the actual book isn’t in it, but I don’t see how another 2000 or so words could really improve the story.)
I really, really wanted to like this book, as it’s the first ARC I’ve ever had the honor of reading, and the premise sounded so great. But I found myself skimming after the first few chapters because I could not get past those sentence-level hang-ups to fully immerse myself in a story that never really went anywhere.
The Wrythe and the Reckoning by Yvonthia Leland is out April 5.
Rating: 1 out of 5
P.S. You might be wondering what a “Wrythe” is. I did, too, and Googled it. According to Wikipedia, “The Wrythe is a small neighbourhood in the London Borough of Sutton also referred to as Wrythe Green.” That is not where The Wrythe and the Reckoning takes place, so I really have no idea why it’s in the title. Cool story, huh?