And the promised review of kbashe‘s debut novella, Graveyard Sparrow! Disclaimer: I know the author IRL.
This novella is a feminist parable, a same-sex romance, and a genuinely tense thriller. Its theme can be summed up in the words of Katriona, one of the two protagonists: “Someone once said that there’s nothing more poetic than the death of a beautiful woman, but I think that’s only true until the women get revenge.” While dealing with professional and health issues, Katriona and Anthea fight a misogynistic serial killer with an artistic bent and fall in love along the way.
The strongest part of the book is the final third, as the women realize the identity of the villain, whose identity the reader has known from the beginning, and find themselves in grave danger– the threat is not just to their lives, but to the integrity of their minds. The villain is incredibly creepy in his megalomania, total confidence, and twisted sense of beauty and values. Needless to say (this is both a genre romance with a happy ending, and a feminist tale) the women rescue themselves and each other.
The weakest part of the book is the narrative voice, which is overly keen to tell us how wonderful and brave our heroines are and see each other as, rather than trusting the readers to figure this out from their actions and using more subtle means to show their increasing attraction to each other. However, the writing is beautiful in places; I particularly liked this bit of description:
“He smelled of old books and incense, the scent of the Society’s hall. Soon it would cling to her skin as well, a cloak of authority in the form of perfume.”
I really liked the characterization of Anthea, the professional witch with her sights set on an academic career, and the way her desire to be taken seriously in her field and adhere to its ethical codes is used to manipulate her. She rethinks her priorities without abandoning her passion.
If you’re intrigued by the mix of light-hearted romance and a nightmare-inducing serial killer investigation (and oh, did I mention that Bashe writes really scary nightmares for her characters), this might be right up your alley. Hopefully the problems with the narrative voice will be ironed out in future works.