The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley


Format: E-book galley

Length: 386 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Source: NetGalley

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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5 thoughts on “The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

  1. Vorkosigrrl

    Dear (?),

    (Sorry, I do wish I could have found your name.) Hello, there — first time visitor. I found you through a Google alert for Susanna Kearsley.

    Thank you for the review, which hits on the elements that are important to me: writing, plot, character development. There are several books of Ms. Kearsley’s that are on my favorites shelf, but I, too, have sometimes found her plots to be far-fetched, and the characters underdeveloped (e.g., Mariana, another of her backlist with an instantly formed romance at the end that probably makes even less sense). I do love The Winter Sea, The Rose Garden, The Firebird, and The Shadowy Horses, although they have some problems. Your review means I will skip The Splendour Falls, because I do like a well developed story arc and characters.

  2. Brooke

    I want to like Kearsley, but her plots just don’t quite do it for me so I know I should stay away from this one!! Haha. But I do love her writing and her sense of place. She does both so well.

  3. Pingback: The January Wrap-Up | Too Fond

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