Saturday, 2 July 2011

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Published: 4th July 2011
Number of Pages: 352
Book: For Review From Bloomsbury*
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Ghost Story, Murder Mystery, Dark Romance, Fantasy, Magic, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Very Mild Violence, Dead People, Some Swearing and Alcohol/Drug References

Violet Willoughby doesn’t believe in ghosts... but they believe in her.
Violet has spent years taking part in her mother’s elaborately faked séances, putting the rich and powerful in touch with the dead, and their success has brought them a life of luxury they could only have dreamed of and Violet the prospect of a society marriage.
The last thing Violet expected was to start seeing and hearing the dead for real.  But now she is haunted day and night by the ghost of a drowned girl who won’t let her rest until her murderer is uncovered.  Violet must use her talents to unravel the mystery surrounding the girl’s death – and quickly before the killer strikes again...

Since she was nine, Violet has helped her mother achieve fame as a talented spiritualist.  This talent is faked.  Tools such as bellows, laudanum and salt are used to trick the rich into believing in her séances.  So when Violet, her mother, Colin (an Irish orphan, taken in by her mother – not due to the kindness of her heart, but for the labour he provides) and their maid Marjorie travel to the country to entertain Lord Jasper and his guests, they all know the stakes are higher than ever.  They’d put on a good show, get paid and be able to keep their respectable house for a little longer.  But then Violet starts to see ghosts.  After all that time with her mother, she was certain ghosts aren’t real.  Apparently, the ghosts don’t agree.  Especially one particularly persistent ghost, who has lilies in her hair and bruises round her neck and wrists.  She was murdered.  And it’s up to Violet to find the killer...
I absolutely adored Alyxandra Harvey’s Drake Chronicles, and I am anxiously awaiting the release date of the next in the series.  And as I read Haunting Violet I fell just as much in love – more even.  With a backdrop of Victorian England, the setting was just as enchanting and believable as that in books written by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.  All the little details built together to create a world so historical and so British that I honestly felt like I travelled back in time.  The customs, the dress, the speech, the behaviour: all of it just added to the magical Victorian world.  And all this was before the ghosts came into the story. 
Violet I just liked instantly.  We meet her when she was nine: the first time she was taken along to one of her mother’s séances, and forced to help her drug two elderly women.  Violet hated it then, and grew to resent it – and her mother – as she got older.  From the very beginning I was sympathetic towards her: her mother was just horrible.  Plus she was a bookish little girl, and a bookish young woman, and I loved her I'd rather have books than chocolate" quote as I agreed with it wholeheartedly.  I was a little worried at the beginning, scared that the brilliant kick that Harvey’s other female leads wouldn’t exist in this polite world.  My fears were ill found, as Violet had that brilliant attitude I love about Harvey’s girls.  The way she handled her rather unwanted gift was realistic, and she was somehow very modern.
Collin was another winner, with his good sense of humour and subtle Irish accent.  He and Violet look out for each other – after they’d outgrown the putting worms in one another’s beds phase, of course.  I loved Collin, and I’m telling you now that he is just as good as Nicholas and the other Drake boys, so you won’t be disappointed on that front.  And there was also a Lucy-like best friend.  Elizabeth is nobility, but I fell in love with her from her very first sentence: “I once fitted five of those little egg things in my mouth in one go”.  She really made me laugh, and the scenes between her and Violet made me actually feel their friendship: it was completely believable. 
Now, this book seriously has everything.  It has a brilliant setting, amazing historical and paranormal influences, authentic romance, friendship and general relationships, as well as the most brilliant and new murder-mystery.  I loved the ways Violet, Collin and Elizabeth tried to figure out who the killer was, from using spirit boards to subtle conversations with the living upper class.  Somehow Harvey had me laughing one minute, then on the edge of my seat the next as she cranked up the suspense.  All the spirit and psychic parts of the story were absolutely convincing, plus seeing how old-days mediums (without powers) pulled off their performances was intriguing.
I love a good ghost story, especially one with so much realism, plus I’ve seen the length of this review, so I’m going to end on this note: please let there be a sequel!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Drake Chronicles by Alyxandra Harvey
The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Challenges It's Taking Part In:

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

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