The Poison Eaters

I gave Holly Black another chance. This time, I didn’t read one of her novels, but a compilation of some short stories. The Poison Eaters and Other Stories includes twelve short stories, with subject matter that runs the gamut. Vampires, werewolves, faery, devils, elves, and other magical beings are just a few of the characters contained in these pages.

I believe my favorite story is Paper Cuts Scissors. It is about Justin, a young man who is trying desperately to get his girlfriend back after she has folded herself up and put herself in a Russian novel. He begins studying for a library science degree and finally gets a job organizing books in a man’s private library. After midnight each evening, characters come out of the book and have a party, hosted by the librarian. Justin returns one night with his girlfriend’s book, and watches as she comes out of the pages, meeting other characters and jumping into other books. But maybe she doesn’t really want out of the books after all.

Most of the stories here were very raw, dark tales. Many included sex, drugs, and alcohol. I can’t deny that that the author’s writing was excellent, but I can definitely prefer other types of characters and stories. It seemed like many stories were about very trashy people. That’s fine, it’s definitely real life, but that is not the only way to go, either.

So, basically, while I overall enjoyed this short story collection, I still haven’t made up my mind about this author. She’s a very talented writer, that can’t be denied. I have read about some of her newer books, and the story lines look very interesting, so it’s still possible that I will read more of her work in the future.

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Sepulchre

Another review I’ve written in the past…

I recently read Sepulchre, by Kate Mosse. It is second in a “trilogy,” and I use that term loosely, as the first two books can stand alone. (The third book is due to be published sometime next year.) The book is set in both the late 19th century and the 21st century and tells the stories of two young women whose lives are connected.

One tale begins in 1891. Léonie Vernier is 17 years old and lives in an apartment in Paris with her mother and her older brother Anatole, whom she adores. She knows there is something going on in his life, but he hides his secrets from her, believing her to still be a child. He is attacked on the street, his good name is slandered in the newspapers, and he and his family recently attended the funeral of his lover. Out of the blue, an invitation arrives for Léonie and Anatole to escape city life for a few weeks to visit their aunt, Isolde, at her country estate, the Domaine de la Cade, close to Carcassonne. Isolde is the much younger widow of Léonie’s mother’s half brother. The invitation seems to come at a perfect time, as Anatole feels that he needs to get out of Paris.

Upon arriving at the Domaine, Léonie hears rumors of something evil that resides on the estate and hears stories of wild animals. She senses that there is something sinister lurking somewhere on the estate. Upon exploring the library, she discovers a book written by her uncle concerning the Tarot and his experiences with a mysterious building on the estate called the Sepulchre. Léonie takes it upon herself to have an adventure and discover the location of this building. She does find the dangerous structure and begins to understand the experience her uncle recounted in his book.

Meanwhile, Anatole is unaware that a maniac in Paris is hunting him down, having killed his mother after trying to obtain information concerning his location. Victor Constant’s syphilitic mind can only focus on revenge. Anatole stole his love, and he would take what he could from Anatole, including his life if he is able to do so. Using his wily means, Constant finally locates Anatole at the Domaine.

While this is happening, the reader discovers that the funeral the Vernier family attended was a ruse. Anatole and his love believed that was the only way Constant would leave her alone and finally let her go. Anatole and his “aunt” (no blood relation) are now finally together at the estate and make plans to be married. It is also learned that Anatole will soon be a father. But, their happiness is short-lived, as Constant discovers their hideaway. Anatole has also finally decided to confide in Léonie and treat her as an adult.

The other story takes place in 2007. Meredith Martin is a graduate student from North Carolina who has come to Paris in order to conduct research for her biography of Claude Debussy, who happens to have lived in the same apartment building as the Verniers. Meredith is also in France for personal reasons. She was adopted by a distant cousin after her birth mother’s suicide, and all she was left with was a piece of music, with the simple heading Sepulchre 1891, and a photograph of a soldier. While in Paris, Meredith finds herself drawn to a flyer advertising tarot card readings. When she arrives at the address listed and gets a reading, the reader tells her that lines between the past and present are unclear, which is not something that she normally sees while giving readings. Also, Meredith finds that the image of a woman printed on a tarot card has a striking resemblance to herself, unnerving her. Fleeing the room, the deck of cards is pressed upon her as a gift. She arrives later that day at an old restored hotel, the Domaine de la Cade.

As she is driving to her hotel, she swerves to avoid hitting a woman who is standing in the middle of the road. However, when she gets out of her car, she finds no one there. Throughout the next few days, she also experiences feeling the presence of this woman and even dreaming of her, able to picture her green eyes. At the hotel, she does discover pictures displayed on the wall that resemble her photograph of the soldier. She learns that the people in the picture are Anatole and Léonie Vernier and Isolde. Meredith also becomes friends with Hal, the nephew of the current owner of the hotel, and he eventually becomes her love interest. At the Domaine, Meredith finally does discover the secrets of her family and the terrifying and dreadful events that unfolded at the Domaine more than a century before.

Kate Mosse is a very talented writer and I am looking forward to her next installment in the set. The historical pictures that she painted were fantastic. I loved the supernatural elements, and found the book to be strong in elements of mystery, obsession, and revenge. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining and fulfulling reading experience.