Maud lives with her father in Wakenhyrst – a house surrounded by the mysterious and beautiful fen. But when a church painting (or ‘doom’) is discovered and restored, what evil has been unleashed?
I picked up Wakenhyrst thinking from its blurb and supported PR that it was a ‘gothic horror’. I would say I probably went in with the wrong expectations of the book. There are elements of witchcraft, superstition and death which run through the book and add an air of unease throughout, but it isn’t really a horror. It’s more a thriller that includes a study of mental illness, of the church vs old customs and beliefs and the role of women in Edwardian Britain. This isn’t a criticism of the story at all though – I enjoyed it immensely and it surprised me, it just wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
Wakenhyrst is quite a slow burn; it changes perspective from Maud’s present life to reading her father’s diary – sometimes a few days behind. It’s a great way of telling the story and it keeps the tension up throughout but at times I just wanted it to go where it needed to go faster. We already know how the story ends – from the flash-forward at the start of the book so the tension building and suspense felt a little superfluous at times.
That said Maud is an interesting character, she feels realistic and well-rounded for a lady of her time with enough intelligence to realise her limitations. I liked the authors note at the end of the book that explains where she got her ideas from – which bits of the story came from history and which bits came from her life or were inspired from somewhere that she had visited. This very much shines through the narrative to create a detailed setting and truthful characters. I loved the descriptions of the fen and the way that it permeated and influenced the plot. I enjoyed the inclusion of superstitions and elements of witchcraft. Edward Stearne is also a really nicely drawn character – his descent into madness and paranoia kept me gripped throughout and you could really see the ‘logical’ steps in his actions.
Overall Wakenhyrst is an interesting Gothic thriller with a great setting and interesting characters which unsettles you and builds suspense. Thank you to NetGalley & Head of Zeus for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.