The Feast of all Souls
By Simon Bestwick
Alice’s house stands at a gateway between worlds. Now something has awoken on the other side – and she’s in its way…
378 Collarmill Road looks like an ordinary house. But sometimes, the world outside the windows isn’t the one you expect to see. And sometimes you’ll turn around and find you’re not alone.
The suburb of Crawbeck, on a hill outside the English city of Manchester, overlooks the woodlands of Browton Vale. Alice Collier was happy here, once, but following the end of her marriage and loss of her daughter, she’s come back to pick up the threads of her life.
John Revell, an old flame of Alice’s, reluctantly comes to her aid when the house begins to reveal its secrets. The hill on which it sits is a place of legends – of Old Harry, the Beast of Crawbeck, of the Virgin of the Height and of the mysterious Red Man – and home to the secrets of the shadowy Arodias Thorne.
And now Alice and John stand between him and rest of our world…
I love haunted house stories. For as long as I can remember, I have been reading, telling and watching stories of houses that were possessed, corrupted or inhabited with evil spirits from an unworldly realm. The paranormal genre continues to fascinate me and solicits feelings of curiosity.
The Feast of all Souls did exactly that. It immediately lunged at me and grabbed hold. The cover carried an air of nostalgia that I could only contribute to the countless films and books I have read throughout the years, and was presented beautifully with an image of intrigue and looming danger. The synopsis invited feelings of the familiar while promising a new, fascinating twist. Unfortunately, I may have entered into this one with ill conceived expectations.
I am keeping this review on the lighter side for one reason, and one reason only. I failed to connect with The Feast of all Souls in any memorable manner. Upon reaching 20% completion of the story, it began to unravel for me. I found myself taking several weeks to complete a book under 400 pages. Then I began to contemplate whether I was going to finish the title or perhaps just reach out to the publisher and Netgalley to explain that my relationship with this book was doomed. But I do not like to give up, so I trudged along. And at times, I admit, a feeling of hope and redemption would arise, but it was always so short-lived. Total derailment was happening and there was nothing stopping it.
I want to honestly mention that I do believe the plot was solid enough. There is a story happening that does hold value. Alice has suffered the tremendous loss of a child and separated from her husband in the process. Her entire life has been turned upside down, and she arrives at the house on Collarmill road seeking a new start. I would point out that this is a bit cliché and typical of haunted house stories, but really do not care because it is a trope that usually works. Stories of the paranormal always unfold best when there are characters who are suffering or in emotional turmoil. It helps feed the vibe and create the appropriate atmosphere.
Alice soon realizes that there is a lot more happening beneath the surface of her new home than she could ever have envisioned. 378 Collarmill is a gateway between two intertwined worlds, and she finds herself haunted by its dark, secretive past. Soon she enlists the assistance of a former love John, to help her confront the evil within. I really felt this addition to the story was somewhat unwarranted and lack luster. A former flame, really? John’s arrival marked an even bigger loss of connection with the story for me.
The majority of the narration alternates between the 1830s as told through Mary Carson who had occupied the house as a secretary for the owner Mr Thorne and the present day through the experiences of Alice as the new owner. I will leave the rest of the plot here to be discovered by those who still wish to read the book after this review.
Initially the time frames pulled me in and felt captivating. I was engaged with Mary and the history that was provided. Sadly however, after a while it began to feel tedious as too much was occurring. My connection with the characters was beginning to sever, and I losing my patience. Here was a women who had lost her entire life, and I was lacking any true empathy or emotion for her. I had disengaged.
While the writing is pretty solid, it was unfortunately a case of too many details for me. The back story we received regarding Alice, felt trifle at times. It felt as though the story deviated too often, focusing on unnecessary pieces of information. While there were several genuinely spooky moments, it was always a challenge to maintain interest with the continuous flow of unwanted details.
By the time the important and big revelations occurred, I was no longer invested and admittedly did not feel like giving them the proper attention. This started as a promising read and ended in a mess for me. An overabundance of information and disorganized timeline created a frustrating experience, that I felt could have really been gratifying. Ultimately, in the end, The Feast of All Souls fell victim to poor execution.
I do want to note that all other reviews I have stumbled upon have been of high praise. Those who are seeking a book full of paranormal with deep complexity may find great appreciation for this title. I would encourage you to make your own decision.
* I received a copy of The Feasts of All Souls courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. This is my own honest, unbiased review and opinion.
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