Format: E-book galley
Length: 386 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
From the publisher:
An Ancient Castle, a Tragic Love, and a Web of Secrets Begins to Unravel…
Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings. When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary own of Chinon, and promptly disappears—well, that’s Harry for you.
As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm. Legend has it that during a thirteenth-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a “treasure of great price.” And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.
As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.
Here’s what I thought:
I read my first Susanna Kearsley book last year (The Winter Sea) and I have several friends who are big time fans of her writing, so I was interested to read this one from her backlist which has just been re-released. It is one of her earliest novels, yet it already has many of the hallmarks of Kearsley’s fiction: connections between the past and the present, elements of mystery and the supernatural, a beautiful setting and a romantic subplot.
One thing that I noticed which differentiated this novel from The Winter Sea is that The Splendour Falls really isn’t a work of historical fiction. The large majority of the action takes place in the present time, although historical events touch on the present as they affect the characters’ lives and actions. The plot involves only very peripherally the historical figure of Queen Isabelle and more pertinently an Isabelle who lived in Chinon during the occupation of France in WWII.
The main storyline, however, centers around the modern-day character of Emily Braden, an Englishwoman who is visiting Chinon on holiday. I enjoyed the character of Emily and the friends and acquaintances she picks up through her adventures, and I thought the setting was beautifully described. It definitely make me want to visit Chinon, as I’ve never been.
I like Kearseley’s writing style, but I found the plot to be pretty far-fetched. In particular, there is a murder which happens about 3/4 of the way through the book that seemed very unrealistic and jarred me out of the story. I think I would have enjoyed the book more without this action and its consequences. The resolution of this plot element also felt too convenient.
The love story could have been sweet, combining as it does elements of the past and the present, but Kearsley never really goes anywhere with it and (ALERT! SPOILERS AHEAD!!) I was left wondering why Emily supposedly looks like Isabelle–was there supposed to be some relation between them? Also, (DOUBLE ALERT! SPOILERY RANT AHEAD!!) she and Neil never spend that much time together and yet they somehow magically fall in love and each know what the other is thinking and feeling without having to say it. Hmm.
Overall, The Splendour Falls is a good read if you can check your skepticism at the door and just enjoy Kearsley’s writing and the beautiful French setting.
Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.
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