Book Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

Posted October 3, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler SzarlanThe Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan
Genres: Paranormal, Thriller
Published by Ballantine Books on September 23, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

The Hawley Book of the Dead is a paranormal thriller and revolves around a family being hunted from Massachusetts to Las Vegas and back again.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Take
Excellent read! A very different take on witches, the fae, and magic that brings in an evil pursuit. I find myself hoping that Szarlan will make this into a series, although I’m not sure how she’d manage it.

Szarlan yanked me into the story right off the bat. That first sentence was a pip! I mean, how can you ignore such a start?! It’s a beginning that ends life as Reve knows it, but jerks us back to the beginning. It’s like a yo-yo, bouncing back and forth, preparing us, hoping that it’s a trick. And ended in my crying so much when I read this. And I’m crying again as I write this review and remembering what happened. It’s so senseless, so unfair.

Keeping in mind that this is an ARC and that the text may change between when I read it and when the book is released to the public, I absolutely love what Reve has to say about writing being magic. It’s a beautiful paragraph, and you may want to write it up for an inspirational thought to keep your spirits up.

It’s horrible as Reve remembers back into her past. That jolt of memory that explains who her Fetch is. The what-ifs this inspires in me. I’m so angry.

It’s memories of Reve’s own past — of family tales and friendship with Jolon, of Dyer women’s history, of recent family history. It’s life, family life with all the trials and tribulations of raising intelligent girls — two of ’em teens! — and a beloved yet dead father. It’s the fear of the Fetch and that delicate balance a mother will strive for in protecting her children but not frightening them. It’s that battle with an older generation who believes that ignorance is safety… It’s also Voss’ story and his downward spiral.

Part of Reve’s past is Maggie. One of a group of students concerned about how scientists and the government are using the space around campus. It’s her request of Reve that sets things off. It’s also a repeat of history with the twins disappearing and a Fetch after the family. Man, Szarlan knows how to tug at the heartstrings, how to whip up emotions, how to show us Reve’s fears.

Interesting and VERY believable twist on the truth about the Tuatha de Danann and what underground truly meant. Gramps’ theory about Hawley Five Corners.

The niggles… Why, oh why, does Reve question Falcon Eddy when it was her Nan who sent him? That’s like questioning Nan. Why doesn’t she remember the story Nan told her? The whole ignorance trope irritates the hell out of me. And now, suddenly, in a couple paragraphs, Reve knows all *eye roll*. It’s not so much that all of a sudden Nan is spilling the beans or that Reve figures things out, but the way in which Szarlan suddenly lets it all out. There’s no finesse. It just spills like an overeager writer can’t wait to tell us all. Why doesn’t she tell us why the Reverend is so dangerous? So she’s keeping him in check…from what?

How sick is that? Blaming his choices on someone else. Setting up the destruction of his own world and then destroying others. That’s so wrong.

It’s a fabulous story in which Szarlan keeps us wondering. Yes, there are some rough edges, but they’re minor. I wish she had been a touch more explicit when she finally gets around to the reveals, but I suspect it’s simply my wanting every i dotted and every t crossed. I don’t want to use my imagination — what if I’m wrong?! That and I want more. I want to know more about what happens with the twins, with Callie. What’s going on with Nan and her “roommate”? What does the future hold for Jolon? Will Reve ever see Jeremy again? And, damn it, I’m crying again.

“…there are more things in heaven and under earth
than are dreamt of…

The Story
Tragedy strikes this loving family when Jeremy is killed. Onstage. By his wife. And the cops wonder how she’s involved, for Jeremy came from money.

Then the photographs begin to appear. Pictures of the daughters at various tasks. The pictures singed and smelling of sulfur. And the police can find no answers.

It’s a move that Reve has put off, but with her family in danger, she takes them home. Home to Hawley Five Corners where they’ll become the Dyers. Again. It’s a village filled with history and a ghost of a mystery, one that haunts the surrounding towns.

The Characters
Jeremy and Revelation “Reve” Maskelyne are a double act in Las Vegas, “The Great Revelation and the Maskelyne Mind”, making a good living with their story of a magic show at the small theater they lease, the Bijoux. Jeremy comes from a family of magicians while Revelation comes from a family of magic, and her Gift is one of invisibility. Grace and Fai are their twin, fifteen-year-old daughters; Caleigh is their ten-year-old with a thing for cheese. Her magic has made itself known in her string. Marisol is their housekeeper. Nathan Landry is Jeremy’s cousin, gay and disowned by his Republican Catholic parents, and now he lives with the Maskelynes, tutoring the girls. He has a love of fencing, history — he got a first from Oxford in Renaissance Studies, and learning the family trade. Henry is Reve’s agent who suggests a new way for Reve to make a living.

They came for the funeral…
Aunts Viv (can tell you how to travel to anyplace at all) and Gwen (can find any lost thing) came from California. Reve’s parents, Grand and Gramps, Morgan (her gift is healing) and her dad (his field is comparative literature), came from Massachusetts. Bertie Maskelyne was the only relative who flew in from England.

Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts, is…
…a deserted village founded by Reve’s great-greats and still owned by Nan. And she’s the last of the Revelations, a name bestowed on the daughter who will inherit the mantle. Each one’s gift is different, but each Dyer is born with magic. Nan is Reve’s maternal grandmother. Ninety-seven years old and still working her mastery with her birds, a master falconer. Falcon Eddy is a friend of Nan’s. Sent to help keep her safe. The Reverend John Steel is a Baptist minister, odd, creepy. Willy is Nan’s housekeeper. Vienna Warriner was Nan’s best friend back in 1923.

Miss May is the family, er, horses’ goat. The horses are Zar, Reve’s chestnut, Rikka is Fai’s gray, and Brio is Grace’s black.

Carl Streeter lives in Hawley Village and preps a house for the remaining Maskelynes to come home to. He’s married to Brenda, a Hawley girl. Peri manages the Creamery, a landmark diner for the community. Bridget Granger Sears and Tilda Delaney are two young ladies of Lithia town. Paula is a waitress at Pizza by Earl. Mrs. Jerusha Pike is their dour housekeeper; Remy Pike is her husband and the leader of the men — including Mike and Len — following Reve around, keeping her safe, and who don’t want Reve to know about the disappearances of those girls in 1923. Hank, though, he doesn’t want anything to happen to Reve’s girls. Hannah Sears is the only one who came back. It began with Lucy Bell, Aggie Green, Liza Sears, Maria Hall, then Anna Sewall… Hannah was the sixth. But she came back. From the forest. Sam, Scott, Gina, and Ray are all concerned about today’s disappearances.

Police Chief Jolon Adair was Reve’s best friend as a child until he was forced to move away. Now he’s back as the chief of police in Hawley. His father was the groundskeeper on the college grounds, and his mother stayed at home in their house on the edge of Hawley Forest. The Jesuit Brothers took Jolon in, and Brother Thomas taught him to track. But why didn’t he come back when his mother abandoned him? Officer Bob is a guard in the house.

In 1775, Urbane Sears and his wife, Bethia Dyer Sears, added a large extension to the house that Reve, the girls, and Nathan have moved into. He was the first merchant of Hawley and the progenitor of the Sears clan. In 1883, Edith Miniter and Evanore Beebe were chased down the lane.

The Fetch, a stealer of souls, is a family legend from 1832 and its effect on Lucius Gowdy. Abel Carmichael is a retired roofer up hunting. Simon Magus the web weaver.

Maggie Hamilton is another part of Reve’s past. A friend, a college classmate who disappeared forever, a dissident angry over government experimentation. Leon and Eli were fellow dissident students. In the tunnels, Lupo and Andy are FBI guards. Dr. Harmon has a close encounter after observing a man being tortured.

Rigel Voss was a star throughout his student years and at the start of his FBI career. Then a college operation where he was in charge proved his downfall. It didn’t help with his beloved wife, Alice. Emily was Alice’s sister. Assistant Director Hunter wants Voss to retract. Cinda was Hunter’s secretary and no longer flirtatious around him. Rivera and Lindley are old friends come to take him in.

Las Vegas
Wesley Knowles, formerly one of the Five Chinese Brothers, is now a watchman at the Bijoux. Dan Liston is the prop master and general technician. Nico is the Maskelyne lawyer. Setekh the Magnificent was known by Caleigh’s parents.

The Perpetual Tag Sale is quite here-and-therian with lots of treasures.

The Cover
The cover scares me. It makes me think of old, old things and blood. A photo album bound in cords with its recessed rectangle for a photograph of a little girl heading down the lane where an unknown figure awaits as violets snake their way onto the front.

The title is a myth, a dangerous relic, a missing treasure. It all depends on who you are and what you know of The Hawley Book of the Dead.

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