My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I started off with the sample on Kindle and was immediately hooked. The vintage photographs combined with a strong voice creating a strong ambience make this book great for people who like subtler horror and/or adventure stories. (I’d assumed the photographs were modern and Photoshopped, so finding out they were authentic—at least as far as coming from the actual time period&151;was entertaining. There’s a little bit of meta where the narrator discusses how they might have been faked; of course, in this context, they’re real photographs.)
Anyway, because of the pictures, I got a copy at the library instead of reading this on my Kindle. If you have one of the fancier screens you should be fine, but I have an older keyboard one. They’re not technically essential to the story, but I do think they boost the ambience, and it’s an interesting moment of seeing how found objects can influence writing. We see this more in poetry than prose, I think.
So, the book itself. Riggs is strongest when writing descriptions and building suspense, as well as the aforementioned voice. The book slips a bit when it gets more adventure story-like. Riggs’ style isn’t as well suited to the moments of action, which grow more frequent towards the end. (This is the first in a series. It seems like the latter style will dominate coming books, so I’m not sure if I will read more, although I did love how this one started off and didn’t actually dislike where it went.)
Things start off with a surreal, magical realism feel and eventually slide into urban fantasy. I won’t pretend I didn’t see it coming, but I was kind of hoping it would stay on the magical realism side because, as already mentioned, Riggs is at his best when he’s describing things or internal monologuing.
Like a lot of teen fiction, there is a romantic interest. It’s not too mushy, but it feels almost like an afterthought, in part because of the existing relationship with the narrator’s grandfather. Hormones may be driving stuff here, but those pieces weren’t working for me. Presumably the tension will go somewhere in the sequels; I think the setup needed to be stronger (or maybe even weaker) in this book.
The fantasy side itself isn’t particularly original, but the presentation as well as the incorporation of more than the usual run of Lovecraftian elements—especially ambient horror—do make it stand out in other ways. And he does have a gorgeous writing style.