I saved several books I received from NetGalley in the summer-- awaiting Carl's RIP Challenge. I'm glad I did because as soon as September hit, I dived headlong into the challenge with enough scary, paranormal, horror type books to keep me involved for a while.
The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd is the one I looked forward to the most as I've read all of her books set in Victorian England and featuring Charles Maddox. Yet I delayed starting it because of the intense, but subtle undercurrent of threat that accompanies the Charles Maddox series. I have to be in the right mood to enjoy (or subject myself?) to the melancholic menace Shepherd's writing delivers.
Charles Maddox isn't an entirely likable protagonist. As a means of imparting atmospheric stories, however, Charles is a complete success. Or perhaps I should give credit for that not to Charles, but to the omniscient narrator who respects Charles, but doesn't withhold details that expose his flaws.
As for the writing style, I have to admit that many readers have a problem with the detail, the lengthy sentences, and the slow revelations. All true, but the books are creepy and historic, with loads of allusions to Victoriana and the authors and works of the period. I like this element, but can understand some of the objections to pace.
The Pierced Heart presents a different version of the Dracula story. If you've read Bram Stoker's Dracula, you will at once pick up on similarities of characters, descriptions, and style--yet the book is not simply telling the story from another point of view. It is, rather, the telling the story that might have inspired Bram Stoker to write his fictional version of certain events. In fact, I kept expecting Stoker himself to appear in the story, grateful for the inspiration and ready to put pen to paper. At first, I thought that the young man Charles met in the library was Stoker (he did have red hair), but I realized the timing wasn't right, Stoker would have been a toddler in 1851.
If you like Gothic novels, The Pierced Heart fulfills the qualifications for the genre and gives another version of one of the most popular Gothic characters of all time.
My fourth book for the RIP challenge.
NetGalley/Random House/Bantam Dell
Gothic/Mystery/Historic Fiction. Oct. 21, 2014. Print length: 256 pages.