Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

review by Maryom

Audrey Hart has traveled from London to Skye in the hope of getting a job as assistant to a collector of folk and fairy tales. It's not accepted behaviour for a young woman in 1857, but Audrey is fiercely independent, and, after quarreling with her father and step-mother, determined to strike out on her own. She's always been fascinated by folk tales; some of her earliest memories are of accompanying her mother, a keen folklorist herself, as she listened to the stories crofters told around their firesides. In her new position Audrey will be doing much the same, but at first she finds the locals refuse to talk. Then Audrey finds the body of a girl on the beach, and the crofter become more willing to talk about their belief that girls are being taken by spirits of the restless dead, appearing as flocks of misshapen birds. The local minister tries to dismiss these claims as mere superstition, and though Audrey isn't sure who to believe, she feels that something within the mystery may be linked to her mother's death many years before.

This is an excellent read for lovers of Gothic fiction - it's certainly a thriller, and if not quite 'horror' it's pretty close. The atmosphere and setting are superb. Brooding mountains, empty moorlands and wild seas set the scene, and the division of society between crofters and landowners adds to the mistrust and fear. This is the time of forced 'clearances', when crofters were evicted from homes on fertile ground to make way for profitable sheep and deer, and left to struggle as best they could on stony or boggy strips of land by the shore. At the same time, the Church is trying to take away their heritage by banning the telling of old folk tales - the very things that give meaning to their hard, impoverished lives.

I really liked the way the story moved from 'realistic' mystery to something more supernatural. Are the superstitious crofters correct, and the girls being abducted by evil 'fairies' or spirits, or is the explanation far more mundane, even if equally shocking. Audrey's opinion veers one way then the other, influenced one way by events that occurred in London, the other by her mother's deep-seated belief in folklore, and the reader is kept guessing and the tension high.

Available now on kindle, out in hardback 26/7/18.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - 
 Tinder Press
Genre - 
Adult fiction, 

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