Winter Tides: Not what I expected

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review James P Blaylock Winter TidesWinter Tides by James P. Blaylock

I was disappointed in Winter Tides, though it’s probably not fair to blame James P. Blaylock for my disappointment. It’s not his fault the cover copy doesn’t accurately describe the novel’s actual subject matter. It’s also not his fault I’m a big enough ballad geek that when I see the words “Anne,” “Elinor,” “sisters,” and “drowning” in the same sentence, I immediately think of “The Cruel Sister,” a heartbreaking ballad of love and sisterly betrayal. Between the cover copy and a ballad reference that may or may not have been intentional, I led myself to expect a ghost story and a love story. Here’s the cover copy, for what it’s worth:

Fifteen years ago, on a deserted California beach, Dave Quinn swam out into the winter ocean to save two drowning girls — identical twin sisters. He was only able to save one. Now, years later, he meets Anne, a struggling artist from Canada. He has no idea that she is the child he saved so long ago. And he has no idea that Elinor, the long-dead sister he couldn’t save, has come with her…

What I got instead was a novel about a serial killer and arsonist named Edmund, who isn’t even mentioned on the cover.

Dave and the sisters were there, all right, but I never really felt connected to them, never really felt like I was in their heads. Even when the story was being told from Dave or Anne’s point of view, the narrative focused more on their physical actions than on what was happening with them psychologically. Elinor, the ghost sister, gets even shorter shrift, and mainly seems to be a plot device. The romance between Dave and Anne almost seemed skimmed-over, and both of their feelings for Elinor are summed up in a few sentences here and there. The only intricate, fully developed characterization in the book is that of Edmund, a psychopath who sees torturing people as a fine art form. Blaylock does a good job of depicting him, but I wasn’t expecting a psychopath story. It’s not really my thing.

If you like novels about psychopaths and serial killers, you may well love Winter Tides. It’s a well-written example of that genre. Blaylock’s subtlety and restraint leave the worst bits to the imagination, creating a palpable terror without buckets of splatter. It’s just not the genre I was expecting.

Ghost stories — (1994-1999) Each novel can stand alone. Publisher: Blaylock’s Night Relics is a chilling novel of unearthly emotional power, a ghost story that pushes beyond the classic form. It is the tale of a man haunted by the ghosts of the human heart — both real and imagined — where lost memories and lost loves whisper on the wind. It is a perfectly captured nightmare.

James P. Blaylock 1. Night Relics, 2. Winter Tides, 3. The Rainy Season James P. Blaylock 1. Night Relics, 2. Winter Tides, 3. The Rainy Season James P. Blaylock 1. Night Relics, 2. Winter Tides, 3. The Rainy Season


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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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