This proof was given to me for free by the publisher, Amulet Books. This does not influence my opinion in any way.
After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.
But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.
I don’t even know any more how the proof of House of Ash got into my possession. I might have grabbed it from some table at YALC or one of my friends got it and gave it to me. Anyway, with “mental illness” in the short description, there was no way I was passing up on this novel!
Cook clearly wanted to write a modern-day Gothic novel and she succeeded pretty well. Not only does the voice of the story closely remember the Gothic novels of old, it is also told in two story lines, one taking place today and one in Victorian times. Right when traditional Gothic tales take place. I immediately felt the Gothic vibe and understood what Cook intended, but the haunted feeling I got with, for instance, Frankenstein, was a bit missing in House of Ash.
She felt her own solidness, and she felt the tremor of spirits all around her.
Mila smiled. The house had made its first mistake. You’ve shown your hand. You’re a thing that’s alive.
Anything alive can be killed.
The main reason why I wasn’t exactly scared, was that I didn’t really care for the two main characters. Our present-day Curtis is a bit of an aggressive hothead who just didn’t manage to win over my sympathies and our Victorian Mila didn’t read like a Victorian lady at all. She felt like a present-day girl that somehow got stuck in petticoats and a corset, and it wasn’t believable at all. To be honest, I didn’t care if they lived or died.
And yet, I liked this book. Somewhere between the original vibe of the story, the unlikable characters, the unrealistic plot, the slightly unrespectful way that mental illness is displayed, there was a story in House of Ash that I really liked. I only thought of all those small complaints when I was writing this review. It’s not a book for everyone and the story doesn’t hold up if you look at it too closely, but I enjoyed reading it!
Have you read this book? If not, does it sound interesting to you? If yes, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!