Title: Wylding Hall
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Is This Part of a Series?: No
*I purchased an e-copy of this book
This book is told in the style of a documentary film, with interviews of an acid rock band and the people close to them. The topic of discussion is their summer spent at Wylding Hall and the mysterious happenings that took place there–including the disappearance of the lead singer, Julian.
This book has gorgeous imagery, a well-developed setting, and a delicious–but tolerable–level of tension and creepiness. This is one of my favorite books of this year.
The Nitty Gritty:
This book has quite a few characters in it–including, in my opinion Wylding Hall itself. They are all well-developed and unique from each other, but I will also say that they are a little tough to get a grasp on–to picture distinctly in one’s head–in the beginning. It is a bit like having a polaroid develop, while the characters are narrating the scene. I could hear their differences and their unique personalities, but it was tough to keep them in focus–at first–while switching back and forth among them. There was a conversational tone which sweep me up and away into the world of Wylding Hall and made me feel like I was sitting in the same room with the characters.
Ms. Hand’s language was lyrical and poetic and descriptive and breath-taking. In short, it was everything I strive to create when I sit down to write my own stories. Honestly, it reminds me of the language of my favorite book (and series) Kushiel’s Dart, but with a more approachable quality to it. One of my favorite lines in the whole book: “It’s the spark that keeps us alive in the cold and the night, the fire we gather in front of so we know we’re not alone in the dark.” It’s beautiful and hopeful and inspiring, because while there is the implication of things that go bump in the night, it clearly speaks to the idea that we are part of a greater whole and, as it says, not alone. And that is a wonderful feeling.
This is listed as a dark fantasy and it is very dark. There are things that make me nervous to recall as I sit here and think about what I read in order to write this review. But as with The Shining, the scary parts of this book are balanced by the quality of writing and language twice and, more importantly, but the fact that the creepiness is best viewed out of the corner of your mind’s eye. If you look directly at it, it looses just enough of it’s brightness and edge to keep a person from loosing sleep. Or this person, at any rate. That is not to say that it didn’t raise my pulse and make my breathing shallow, because it did. It was creepy and amazing and at points almost terrifying, but it–quite wonderfully–did not give me nightmares either. It will stick with me for years, but I won’t loose sleep (other than the sleep I lost staying up to read it, and the sleep I will loose when I reread it in the future). And that is the perfect sort of dark fantasy or horror for this overactive imagination I live with!