Review: House of the Seven Gables

(Image and summary taken from Goodreads)

(Image taken from Goodreads)

For once, I found Goodreads to be entirely unhelpful to me.  I simply couldn’t find a decent summary that didn’t already begin to dissect the book, or didn’t have an enormous commentary on footnotes and whatnot, or wasn’t paired up with the Scarlet Letter.  Ah well.  I suppose I’ll just have to supply my own.

Here goes nothing:

“God will give you blood to drink!”

So declared Maule, a man convicted as a wizard during the Salem Witch Trials, addressing one Colonel Pyncheon who had been key in seeing to his hanging.  For although it could not be proven, more than a few few rumors that suggested that Colonel Pyncheon had accused Maule of witchery because he wanted to get his hands on Maule’s property.

The fact that he bought this property as soon as it went up for auction did nothing to help this rumor.

At once, the Colonel hired a contractor to build him an enormous house on the newly-purchased land, and erected the House of the Seven Gables, a legacy for posterity.

On the day of the celebration of the mansion’s completion, however, Maule’s prophecy comes to pass, and the Colonel is found in dead in his office, blood upon the white ruff of his necktie.

Centuries later, the house is inhabited by the lonely old Hepzibah Pyncheon, who has been driven to desperate measures to keep herself afloat.  Living with her is her brother, Clifford, whose mind has been ruined by some wrong that has been done to him.  Renting a separate gable is Holbrooke, a strange young man who never seems to stay in one place.    Young Phoebe Pyncheon has come to live with her cousin, and is the only one who can manage to draw Clifford out of his listless state.

But the venerable town judge, Jaffrey Pyncheon, wants something from Clifford, and he will stop at nothing to get it.

Nathaniel Hawthorne has long been one of my favorite classical American authors.  When I read the Scarlet Letter some years ago, I loved it.  And that was before I had even really begun to become interested in classics, which rather elevates his standing as one of my favorite authors.  (On reflection, I really do need to go back and reread the Scarlet Letter…  But that’s beside the point.)

That being said, I loved the House of the Seven Gables, which I know to be a relatively uncommon opinion, considering that the average rating on Goodreads is only a little over three stars.  It was a very slow-paced book, with a several chapters being devoted largely to how Hepzibah, Clifford, and Phoebe lived together.  There is very little action, and there were a great many words that I was more than a little unfamiliar with that I occasionally stumbled over.

So why did I love it?

Well, simply put, I loved it because I love that style.

I love slower-paced books.  They’re relaxing to me.  It gives me the time to process things and think things over.  It gives me more time to ponder where the story is going, and what the author is actually saying.  It gives me the chance to understand the book better.  Also, the book has to be kept in the context of when it was written.  Books back then were never so fast-paced as they are now.  They were always much more verbose and took much more time to tell us anything.  So, I don’t mind it.

But there was so much to this book that I loved!  There was so much mystery in it, so many things that you don’t find out until the very end!  And throughout the book, Hawthorn kept in such suspense!  Even when I thought, thought I knew what would happen, what had just happened, he still did not betray it with such finality that I still just wasn’t certain.

And I loved the characters!  They were so diverse and so real, and he painted them with such clarity!  Everything about them, one got to know.  The perpetual scowl on Hepzibah’s brow, Phoebe’s smile, Clifford’s flighty state of mind…  They were all so vivid!

In truth, I feel like I just need to go back and reread this one as well.  There’s so much more to be gathered from it than what I did on the first time through, so much more for me to look into and grapple with and dissect!  That’s just the nature of books like this: no matter how many times you go back to reread it, there’s always something that you didn’t catch before.

My overall recommendation for the book?  If you don’t like older works, if you prefer faster-paced books, then this book won’t be for you.  But if you do like classics, and slowly-paced books, then I would recommend it.  It was a wonderful read.

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Review: 13th Tribe and the Judgment Stone

Today, I’m reviewing not one, but two books by one of my favorite authors: Robert Liparulo.

Image and synopsis from Goodreads

Image and synopsis from Goodreads.

Immortals from the time of Moses roam the earth on a quest for justice . . . and heaven.

One man stands in their way.

In 1476 BC, the Israelites turned their backs on the One True God by worshipping a golden calf. For their transgression, forty were cursed to walk the earth forever. Banished from their people, they formed their own tribe, The 13th Tribe.

Now, three and a half millennia later, the remnant of this Tribe continues to seek redemption through vigilante justice-goaded by dark forces in the spiritual realm. They are planning a bold strike modeled on the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan: the complete destruction of a major city-only now, they possess the horrific technology of modern weapons to ensure their success.

Jagger Baird is a husband and father…and security guard of an archaeological dig at the base of Mount Siani. Jagger suddenly finds himself in a fight for the future as he discovers the Tribe’s plans. But to win this fight, he must overcome his own struggles with faith and self-worth – as well as his anger at God for a past tragedy.

This taut thriller by acclaimed novelist Robert Liparulo fuses tomorrow’s technology with faith and non-stop action for a supernatural suspense novel unlike any other.

~~~

The 13th Tribe was fast-paced, action-packed, and loaded with plot twists.  I could not predict what was going to happen in this book until Liparulo unveiled it.  Upon reading the sections when he revealed the twists, I found myself staring at the page with my mouth agape, barely able to believe what I had just read.  I was astounded and excited and completely mystified by the latest turn of events.  I never knew when I would discover some new bit of background information that would completely alter both the plot and the characters themselves.  This made the 13th Tribe an intriguing and suspenseful read.

Liparulo created a realistic and relatable cast of characters.  I found myself not reading about the characters and looking inside their heads, but being inside their heads and feeling all of their excitement, pain, hope, fear — anything that they were going through, I went through too.

Throughout the novel, Liparulo interwove his signature witty sense of humor and highly original analogies.  More than once, these had me laughing out loud and reading them over again because most were hilarious, and all were brilliant.

In summary, I highly recommend the 13th Tribe.  There is but little doubt in my mind that I will be rereading it in the days to come, and am greatly looking forward to it.

Now, for the Judgment Stone.  (Please note that while my review is spoiler-free, Liparulo’s blurb does have some spoilers for the 13th Tribe.  That being said, read at your own risk.)

Cover and synopsis from Goodreads

Image and synopsis from Goodreads.

The Clan is on a mission to defy God by destroying those with the strongest faith.

When a group of ruthless immortals—known as The Clan—attack St. Catherine’s monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai, they steal one of the world’s holiest artifacts: a piece of stone from the Ten Commandments. Those who touch the Stone can see into the spiritual world: angels, demons, and the blue threads of light ascending to Heaven that signal the presence of believers who are connected to God.

Only Jagger—a spiritually wounded husband, father, and former Army Ranger—and Owen—an immortal himself—have any hope of stopping the Clan’s horrific plans.

But another group of immortals, who believe that Jagger’s wife holds the secret to salvation, is after her. Torn between stopping the Clan and protecting his family, there are no easy answers for Jagger. Laying aside his faith in high-tech gadgetry and in his own strength and abilities and embracing true faith isn’t easy for someone who has resisted for 3,000 years. But it may be the only key to his salvation.

~~~

All of the good that I had to say about the 13th Tribe is applicable to the Judgment Stone.   Once again, the characters were extremely relatable, and the analogies were excellent as always.  The book was filled with fast-paced action from the very first page.  However, this made the novel a bit harder for me to be pulled into.  I generally prefer novels that ease me into the action, rather than dropping me into it from the very start.  This is merely a personal preference, and I am sure that many others would adore the way that the Judgment Stone began.

The only other critique I have for this novel is that I had a hard time keeping up with the cast, especially in the beginning.  Liparulo introduced several monks that I hadn’t met previously, in a very short amount of time.  However, because they didn’t play a very big role in the overall plot, it didn’t greatly affect my overall opinion of the book.

Other characters I had a hard time keeping straight were the members of the Clan.  Bale, their leader, was very distinct, seeing as large parts of the book were told from his point of view.  The other members of the clan were less distinct, but they served their purpose: drawing out Bale’s character and furthering the plot.

I must also include a warning to those that are interested — which I hope most of you are — in reading the Judgment Stone.  Due to the nature of the Clan, this book has the potential to be much more disturbing than the 13th Tribe.  While the Tribe was a group of ruthless vigilantes, they were committing their crimes in the hopes of earning their salvation.  As twisted as their reasoning was, their motives were, in a way, pure.

The Clan  was far worse.  They hated God with a passion that, in Liparulo’s words, “may just frighten Satan himself.”  They would do anything to hurt Him.  They slaughtered children, raped women, and hunted down those that were closest to the Lord.

In spite of this, Liparulo did not portray the Clan’s crimes graphically.  He showed that these things happened, but cast them in a negative light.  He draws out Jagger’s horror in response to these events, and, in doing so, creates a sense of horror within the reader’s heart.

The Clan also revered demons, which were revealed to them by the use of the Judgment Stone.  The way in which he handled the subject of demons was very different from what is seen in Hollywood.  Instead of focusing on how terrifying they are, he used them to portray the spiritual war that is constantly raging around us.  This was something very different from anything that I had read before, and I was thrilled to see this change.

All of these things, both good and bad, culminate into an overarching theme (which I’ll not spoil for you) that is portrayed by an excellent cast of both characters and plotline.  I highly recommend both the 13th Tribe and the Judgment Stone.  I recognize that there are some that will see my brief account of the crimes committed by the Clan and shy away from these books, and that’s okay.  But those that realize that this is an integral part of the plot, and that these things do turn out for the best, will not be disappointed in their choice to read the first two installments of the Immortal Files.

Also, I would like to make a note of the fact that there is a cliffhanger at the end of the Judgment Stone.  I have spoken with Mr. Liparulo, and he assures me that there is a third book coming out; it simply is not published yet.

So, what do you think?  Will you be adding the 13th Tribe and the Judgment Stone to your TBR pile?  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Review: Draven’s Light

Image and summary from Goodreads.

Image and summary from Goodreads.

In the Darkness of the Pit The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor. The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart. But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

How can I even begin to say how incredible this book was?  Throughout this novella, Anne Elisabeth interwove the themes of fear and bravery, giving the entire work a sense of continuity.  It bound the two plotlines together — the plotline with Draven and his sister, Ita, and the plotline with the girl whose name we do not learn until the very last chapter.

Her characters were authentic and deeply relatable.  Each of the main characters had his or her own struggle with fear, and yet each was unique.  The result was a cast of truly unforgettable characters that I will, I am confident, carry with me for the rest of my life.

Chronologically, Draven’s Light is the earliest work yet in the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  It’s set in the days during the building of the House of Lights, and even in the days before the Houses, which we had had very little insight into before this novella.  Anne Elisabeth developed a vibrant, intriguing world in the short 189 pages of this novella.

 In summary?  This is one of the best books I have ever read.  It’s a story that I am always going to remember, and will come back to over and over again.  I loved the storyline.  I loved the allegory.  I especially loved the characters.  I have literally nothing bad to say about this book.  Go.  Pick it up.  Read it.  Read it again.  And again.  And again.  And then pass it around, because all of your friends need to read it, too.  It is amazing.