Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 384 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley
Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.
Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.
Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.
This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.
Protagonist: Sandrine is on the run from her husband. After witnessing events that put her in danger and the secrets revealed in her father's suicide note, he now knows with certainty that she can no longer stay with him and flees to her grandmother's mansion in Paris. Once there she begins to see changes within herself as she discovers a passion for painting and for the young architect she has recently met. But darker forces are at work Sandrine's grandmother begins to fear for Sandrine's soul as the ever curious Sandrine becomes more and more ensconced with her history and the legend of their ancestor La Lune with an obsessive appetite. It's hard to say how much of our main character is Sandrine, sure a lot of her is, but her changes in personality happen almost immediately and are no secret that they aren't quite who Snadrine is, however apart from some rather disturbing things Sandrine does that are more or less explained away, I really enjoyed the strong character Sandrine becomes in this book, her passion for art, history, and mythology resonate well with me. Since some of her changes are credited to a certain magical plot device it makes it really hard to discuss how realistic the changes are and the like, but like I said, for the most part she's a really compelling main character and narrator.
Romance: This isn't my first adult novel, but this is my first in a while and my first that has this level of eroticism to it. The romance itself, between Sandrine and Julien, was done very well, it's the first time I've ever seen a character admit their love upon meeting a character that I didn't immediately dismiss the couple and yawn though all the attempts at sexual tension and romantic chemistry. This is because of how it's done, the love isn't immediate, it just seems that way in the narrator's recollection of that moment, the romance takes a while, though not too long after that moment to get started off. Now there are quite a few extremely sexual scenes in this book, the author does a spectacular job of writing scenes that are erotic, but not cringe-worthy. That's most likely due to her beautiful writing style, and how she handles the scenes, there are some specific details, but for the most part everything is described, but there isn't an uncomfortable attention to detail allowing the imagination to do it's job without feeling like it's interrupting something extremely intimate.
World-Building: Can I just say how much I love this author's use of historical fiction, magickal elements, and mythology? I mean seriously it's one of the most engrossing things about this story. The central theme of this book is passion and it weaves it's way through every element of this story masterfully. One of this things I love most about this book is how most of it feels like a realistic historical fiction novel with a theme of eroticism, but then there are these fantastical magickal moments that breathe a different life into the story. The history of the character La Lune, her past and her heartbreak, and who she became, is so compelling. There's a relatively large chunk of the book that details who she was and her history. At first it felt a bit info-dumpy but as the story went on I didn't care. The setting of 1890s Paris comes to life as Sandrine travels through it, learns are, discovers her passions, and tries to figure out her life and who she truly is.
Predictability: See this is why I normally read YA books. With YA books the twists themselves aren't completely predictable, but the way they're revealed is and it's become something I actually rely on pretty heavily. With Adult books, or well more specifically this one, not every secret and action is super important, something that will come back later to blow up in the main character's face. Sometimes there are things that go unanswered and we're supposed to be okay with that. From the twists that there are, most of them were either pretty shocking or terribly predictable, however there is on towards the end that has me more stumped that shocked.
Ending: This book wrapped up way too quickly. I mean there was barely thirty pages left and the final climax hadn't even started, in fact I'm not sure quite when it happens, but I'm fairly certain it's between ten and twenty pages left which made me very nervous. The final climax, or really climaxes (not a euphemism) were really well done, except the very last one left me more confused than satisfied, but there was one more chapter left. Only that didn't quite answer my questions, in some ways it did, but it posed way more questions than it answered, and while this is technically the first in a series it's meant to be a companion novel series where each book can be read a stand alone, so here's hoping in the next book we'll get at least some semblance of the answers to the questions this novel leaves us with by the end.
For the most part I really enjoyed this book, it was a breath of fresh air from the typical YA books I love and usually read. I did have a few problems with the pacing and how things wrapped up too quickly. I know some authors like to leave a lot of things open to interpretation, but I'm definitely not one of those people that enjoys that sort of thing, I crave definitive answers.