A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.
There are monsters in the world.
When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.
There are monsters in the woods.
As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…
There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.
Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.
I’m not sure what it is about Gothic, vaguely-Victorian stories that has me so endlessly enthralled and delighted as of late, but whatever it is, Lakesedge has it in spades. It’s beautiful, dark, and suffocating and claustrophobic, and it’s filled to the brim with insidious magic and incredible mystery. I went deeper and deeper into the shadows of this story – losing myself in towering manors, surrounded by horrifying monsters – and I loved every second of it.
There is darkness in the world, and Violeta Graceling knows this better than most. When her brother Arien sleeps, dark shadows spill from his fingers, and Leta lives in constant fear that one day his powers will be discovered. But when that days comes it is Lord Rowan Sylvanan, the monster who drowned his entire family as a boy, who witnesses her brother’s shadows and determines to take him away to his estate: Lakesedge. Leta is determined to protect her brother, but once they arrive at the manor, she realizes that neither the estate or the man who rules it are all they appear to be, and there are far darker forces to fear in these walls than any monster.
“I walked into the shadows. I came into the dark. I chose this, and I am not afraid. I open my mouth. I let the water fill my lungs.”― Lyndall Clipstone, Lakesedge
Lakesedge has one of the best setting I’ve read about this year and ranks right up there among my favourites. It’s a delicate balance of warm light and bleak, oppressive darkness, but the author manages to keep the reader tiptoeing across that line with incredible finesse and style. Lakesedge manor itself – where most of the story takes place – is the perfect backdrop to the story, housing both the brightest and most tragic moments while also concealing a history that is equally tragic and sweet. I can’t say enough about how well balanced this entire setting was; there is joy as well as gloom to be found here, and the result is absolutely captivating.
The characters were all likeable and pretty relatable. Leta in particular is fantastic, growing from someone ruled by her fears into a lead that faces them head on. Her connection with her little brother was probably my favourite relationship of the story. As someone with younger siblings (whom I only occasionally want to toss out the nearest window), I felt a real connection with Leta as she faces down some truly terrifying things in order to keep Arien safe. There’s real love between them that makes it a fascinating dynamic, especially as Leta grapples with fear for – and sometime of – Arien, as well as his growing desire for independence. I also really enjoyed the staff of the manor, who brought a lot of warmth and compassion to a place that would have otherwise been utterly bleak and oppressive. Even the brooding, bad-boy, ‘monster’ Rowan wasn’t too overdone, nor did he veer into controlling jerk territory, which was a welcome relief.
“I open my eyes and press my hands deep into the mud. Light blooms at my palms. I am the sun. I am wildfire.”― Lyndall Clipstone, Lakesedge
As a whole however, the relationship between Rowan and Violeta felt a little too rushed for my personal preference. I have no issue with characters falling in love over the course of one book – and far be it for me to say that bad-boys with tragic pasts and a bit of edge don’t make for a delightful romantic lead – but the shift between them from fear and hostility to pining romance came on almost too quickly. I also had a similar critique about the pacing of the book; a lot of events seemed to barrel forward without a single moment to breathe. However, I fully admit that I was dying to find out what happened next at pretty much every turn, so the slight rush could absolutely be my own fault.
Despite the above critiques, none of that stopped me from rooting for these doomed lovers, and for everyone touched by the true monsters of Lakesedge. They may have started fast, but there’s definitely a real feeling of passion and gentleness throughout their courtship. Leta and Rowan felt like partners, both equally determined to fight against the darkness – whether it was facing the threats together, or supporting each other against the demons of their pasts. The love between characters – family, friends and more – was the true light in the darkness of the world, and it made the fight against the darkness of Lakesedge that much sweeter – and more terrifying – all at once.
Lakesedge is nothing less than fantastic story and it was a true joy to read. The world, the magic, and especially the characters, made this into a stunning, haunting tale with all the atmospheric darkness and beauty of ancient myths and fairy tales. The ending sets up a sequel that promises to be even darker and more delightful than the first. There are monsters in the dark of the world, and there is still more danger ahead. I absolutely cannot wait to get started. If you like dark, gothic stories with passionate romances and terrible monsters lurking in the shadows, I definitely recommend giving Lakesedge a try.
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