This was an okay read. To start I was sort of into it. Almost half the book really. A story about a boy who hears the cries of his dead stepmother in the old Manor house coupled with the smell of gingerbread. There’s a lot to love here, but I felt the story was a bit slow. It didn’t explain enough and the one moment it did explain slowed the story down.
The opening sequence is good but I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out if it was a dream or actually happening. Something about the way it’s worded didn’t immediately lend itself to believing it might not be a dream or a memory. It was, however eerie, dark and evoked all the right emotions.
The bravery side plot seemed a bit much, lots of talk about what Jordan had learned about bravery, how bravery was really this and not that, and so on. Almost like instead of trying to tell the story, the story was a lesson on bravery in some parts through the mind of a child.
There was a delightfully descriptive second visit to the manor but Jordan’s reaction to the scene even after seeing a hand desperately trying to leave the door stalled me, just like he stalled. The scene itself was well crafted but the way he reacted took the scare out of it because, ultimately, he wasn’t involved.
Then two whole years pass. This was the oddest thing because as it is a supernatural story my first thought was so nothing happened? He just sealed off the door to that world and moved on? Which is fine but… short. I guess if it were modern times, he’d probably be in therapy be told it was all a dream and not have to encounter his fear until he was in his 20’s. 2 years was an odd gap, almost like the story should’ve started with him already at that age and the opening sequence should’ve been a dream that had taunted him for two years thus keeping the momentum going. After so many good things, waiting two years without any real mention of supernatural happenings over that time to then go to a massacre in one day is odd. Where was the build-up and little snippets of things acknowledged or ignored to lead to such a drastic change in events? Why hasn’t the villain done this before if they have the power? Why now? It isn’t like this day doesn’t come once a year so they’ve had the opportunity at least twice before so what gives?
That aside the ending did start to lose me a bit. There’s this big monologue Jordan has about making decisions and coming to conclusions and assumptions that took up way too much page time. All of that was answered the minute he jumped out a window and ended up miles away from his own home. It felt more like a lesson for the readers again like the courage stuff. The villain saying they were cleaning up Jordan’s mess was never fully explained. Are they framing him for something? Had it already been done and now Jordan had no chance but to be on the run? We do find out what had happened in Jordan’s absence but no answer to why the villain would say Jordan specifically caused a lot of trouble.
The doorway stuff was fun. Loads of fun, but at the end, between the horseshoes over doors and Jordan’s proclamation how can we know for sure it had worked? Was it his command or the horseshoes that messed with the doorway magic? All the servants returned back to normal so one could assume it was his proclamation, but then it’s made clear the horseshoes over the doors are blocking magic so which is it?
Not knowing what trouble Jordan had created that needed cleaning, and if the doorway magic had been undone by Jordan’s words or the steel, and even a clear understanding of the under realm made it hard to get into this book. Was the villain always magical, and again, if so, what was so special about this day that made the evil come in full force? There is one suggestion but, all things considered, knowing how self-involved the villain is, I can’t see them caring about something like that otherwise they would’ve attacked ages ago.
This is why the ending was so odd for me. There is a priestess in the book, I don’t remember seeing her at all through the ending massacre. Yet somehow she’s magically there nursing Jordan in the end and telling him that his nemesis will be fine and well. So no one remembers anything at all? Who are they blaming it all on cause someone had to kill all the people? And if they can’t remember, this goes back to the villain saying they were cleaning up Jordan’s mess, what mess was there if no one would’ve remembered anyway? How was anything to even be blamed on him if, come the end, no one can remember anything? Unless, of course, the evil can also place memories into the minds of people. But that’s an assumption.
This is a dark, eerie and sometimes fun read. Descriptive enough for you to clearly visualise what’s going on even in the gory bloody and disgusting parts. But, when trying to piece all the information together, I found it difficult to make sense beyond the clever writing. Even hell its self was described well but I can’t remember much because I was expecting some big epiphany there but the main characters entered, found the person they needed, and left. So I was there wondering what the significance of gingerbread was and how it was finally going to pay off but, it didn’t.
This was a short read, but because of the exposition in some spots, and my brain’s need to connect the dots it took me a while to get through this at only about 84 pages. All in all, it was a fun read. A bit slow in the middle with an ending full of good action and a villain readers will enjoy. I’d def recommend it for someone looking for a short, dark, and twisted tale. But even with all that going for it I found myself needing more clarity during most of the moments, especially the ending. Most of my why’s weren’t answered so, unfortunately, I left this read with a more confusing/unresolved feeling than fulfilled.