Review of The Rathbones, by Janice Clark

The Rathbones was a true delight, from start to finish, and earned a well-deserved 4/5 Stars. The debut novel by Janice Clark captured a fantastic, almost magical quality hearkening back to The Odyssey with a classic Gothic twist. Some things were better than others, all of which I discuss below.

Cons:
– The most noticeable issue was one of pace. Not so much the overall pace of the novel as the weird sensation of irregular time movements. Chronological jumps were common and okay as long as they were nicely flagged, but sometimes it was hard to tell what was a flashback, an observation, or a sudden jump to the future within one paragraph. In these instances, it could be very disorienting.
– There is a lot of wiggle room I provided based on the style of writing, especially around characters. But if I am being honest (which I suppose I should be), the character development was a bit flawed. Certain behaviors contrasted established personalities, or no firm personalities were really established. Character motivations were highly questionable in many cases, and it was hard to connect with the secondary characters.
– More of a fair warning than necessarily a con, but this book requires some unanticipated suspension of disbelief. While not necessarily “magical,” there are some things that happen which rouse a scoff from us skeptics. Particularly related to the relative strength of a crow and the life expectancy of a handful of women, among other things. So if you have a huge issue with things that are a touch unrealistic, then consider this a strong con. If you really don’t care, or even like that, then slide this over to the pros.

Pros:
– From the outset, Clark paints a very lively, albeit bleak, picture of this strange world. A reader does not require a particularly vivid imagination to perfectly conjure a mental image of what she describes. I am typically a big fan of setting and the “feeling” of a novel, so this was a huge boon for me. Between the incredibly thorough research and sheer artistry of writing, I was hooked. By the end of the first chapter I was ready to hop on an old boat and sail out to suffer the New England waters.
– I strongly admire “the classics,” and because of that I give major credit to Clark’s ability to emulate the style of a classic Gothic story while presenting it in a fresh, modern way. Several people have complained in other reviews about the excessive creepiness or slow pace; I think these are all byproducts of the genre, and can be expected or even (to a few) appreciated.
– There’s no other way to really say this, but the novel is just well-written, plain and simple. I was ensnared by the story, completely wrapped up in what it had to offer. There were many excellent twists, some which were obvious but only held a deeper secret, and some which kept me guessing through to the very end.

Would I Recommend?
The pros clearly outweigh the cons. There are certain things to consider, but most of the flaws I found are pretty easy to overlook. Some other reviewers pointed out cons that are, in my opinion, more based on genre and whether or not the book is “your cup of tea.” If you’ve gotten this far in the review and are still interested, then definitely buy it. If you don’t like it, pawn it off to a friend who might better enjoy Poe, Dickens, and Melville on a whale-hunting epic.

Here is the link to the books Amazon page: The Rathbones

Have you read this book? Have any opinions? Let me know, comment below!

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