The Splendor Falls: A little too slow…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Rosemary Clement-Moore The Splendor FallsThe Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Sylvie Davis was once a promising ballerina, but a broken leg ended her career. Distraught over her injury, her father’s death, and her mother’s remarriage, she overindulges in champagne at the wedding reception, and sees something … supernatural. Something that simply isn’t possible. Her mother and stepfather, convinced that Sylvie is either an alcoholic or mentally ill, pack her off to Alabama to recuperate at the home of a cousin.

But life at Bluestone Hill is far from peaceful. Sylvie soon realizes she’s walked into a hotbed of simmering tensions. And by the way, the house just might be haunted…

The Splendor Falls has a lot going for it. There’s just something about a good Southern-gothic ghost story, and this one mixes in some fascinating bits of Welsh myth. I also liked the character of Sylvie. Her struggle to rebuild her life and her worries about her sanity are moving, and while Sylvie is sometimes snippy, it’s understandable! Then there’s Gigi, Sylvie’s dog. The relationship between Gigi and Sylvie is a beautiful thing. This is a book for dog lovers, no question about it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love The Splendor Falls as much as I wanted to. The main problem is the pacing. It simply takes a little too long to get to the meat of the plot. Instead, the beginning of the book is taken up largely with bickering among the major characters. Between Sylvie’s cranky cousin, a prickly and secretive love interest, and a local “Queen Bee,” there’s a lot of arguing, much of which annoyed me without adding much to the plot. I also had trouble mustering up much interest in the love triangle, since one of the love interests is so obviously superior (to my mind, at least) that I couldn’t figure out why Sylvie was attracted at all to the other guy. However, it turns out later that there’s a supernatural reason for this attraction, and when this is revealed, the whole thing makes a little more sense.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThen, when the plot does get off the ground, it feels like Rosemary Clement-Moore tried to rush too much story into the last few chapters. I wanted more about the Civil War backstory and the ancient Welsh backstory. In particular, I think Clement-Moore could have made The Splendor Falls stronger by adding more excerpts from the diary of Sylvie’s ancestress. We often see Sylvie reading this diary, but with only one exception, the reader gets Sylvie’s summary of the contents rather than an actual excerpt. This, to me, would have been a better use of page space than some of the cattiness and arguments that do fill the book.

Overall, The Splendor Falls moves a little too slowly even for me, but it’s nice to see a YA paranormal romance that isn’t just another Twilight clone. (No vampires!) An older book that you might like, if you enjoy The Splendor Falls, is Liz Berry’s The China Garden. Dark secrets, romance, and mysterious gardens ahoy!

The Splendor Falls — (2009) Young adult. Publisher: Can love last beyond the grave? Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career, but Sylvie’s pain runs deeper. What broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage — a union that’s only driven an even deeper wedge into their already tenuous relationship. Uprooting her from her Manhattan apartment and shipping her to Alabama is her mother’s solution for Sylvie’s unhappiness. Her father’s cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family’s history. And that’s where things start to get shady. As it turns out, her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew. More unnerving, though, are the two guys that she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, seems to be perfect in every way. But Rhys — a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin’s — has a hold on her that she doesn’t quite understand. Then she starts seeing things. Sylvie’s lost nearly everything — is she starting to lose her mind as well?

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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