Eloise Montgomery discovers her amazing gift in the wake of tragedy in this first of three captivating stories that make up an e-novella from award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger.
It’s a day like any other for Eloise Montgomery–until tragedy strikes. While she is recovering from a horrible accident that takes the lives of her husband and oldest daughter, and as she works to help her younger daughter move forward, Eloise experiences her first psychic vision. Though she struggles to understand her new-found gifts, Eloise finds a way use them to save lost women and girls–for whom her help may be the only way out…
This pair of novellas (the first two in a trilogy) are the only books I’ve read by Lisa Unger. For all I know, her novel-length work is much better (and other reviews have suggested as much), but I was underwhelmed by what I read.
Both novellas suffer from similar problems. They aren’t paced like short stories. There is far too much narration and almost no dialogue, which makes the whole thing feel more like an over-long summary or author’s notes more than a real story. There’s too much padding in a story format that has no room for padding, making the actual central mysteries feel rushed and stunted.
In the first story, The Whispers, we spend a large chunk of the novella straight-up telling backstory. A good 10 percent of the novella is just leading up to the car crash that kills her family. When you’ve got so few pages to work with and need to make every one count, that’s too many spent on something we find out in the blurb. I honestly did not care about how Eloise met her husband way back in high school. That might be a fine little vignette to put in a novel, but it wasn’t important enough to put in a novella. And because so much that we don’t need gets included anyway, the parts of the novella that are in the here-and-now get pushed out in summarizing narration, with weeks and months simply described to us. We don’t get to spend a lot of time actually watching the characters live and interact due to this, and so I felt quite distanced from them.
Add to that, I was quite put off by the ‘mystery’ in this. First of all, it wasn’t truly a mystery, more a matter of waiting for Eloise’s visions to finish loading, twiddling our thumbs until her magical powers revealed all. Second, [Spoiler] we’re introduced to this dead girl by saying that she was being chased through the woods by a teenaged boy who, against her wishes, took her to said woods instead of her home like he’d promised. There, he scared her bad enough to send her running away from him and he gave chase. From all appearances, the only reason he didn’t go through with raping this girl is because she fell and bashed her head in on a rock. The book then proceeds to focus entirely on the (hinted at) mentally ill man who found the body and abused it. Much fuss is made over the fact that he will do this again on a live girl. And, yes, he’s already a stalker and if your magic says he’s going to do it again, by all means, put a stop to him. But the book expressly ignores the teenaged rapist boy. Eloise consciously decides to not include him in her account to the police. (Also, the police seem manifestly uninterested in how this dead girl got to the middle of the woods in the first place.) Her excuse seems to be that it was “just an accident,” but legally speaking, no, that boy is the murderer. His actions led directly to her death, and they were actions of a hostile nature. At the very least, he’s guilty of manslaughter. Also, probably going to go on to sexually assault again, since he so handily got away with it this time. Great job sending the mentally ill man to prison for a murder he didn’t commit, though. [/Spoiler] Just…bravo.
I’m still ticked off about that.
The second book, The Burning Girl, read more like a prologue than anything else. There was no complete story in it, just a ton of set up and some…sort of spinning around in circles sort of action. There are three separate story lines. One sort of resolves itself in a tepid and rather depressing fashion, one sputters out (ended? Maybe not ended? What ever happened to that guy?) and the other we just don’t make any progress on at all. It did delve into the characters that we met in the previous novella a bit more and skipped much of the set-up fluff (the only backstory we get is for characters are still alive. Progress?). But there was still too much ‘telling’ and summarizing, and the lack of story progression made the whole thing feel like a stall.
Overall, the ideas presented here were interesting and certainly had potential. The creepy parts were suitably creepy and the emotional issues and quandaries…well, if we’d gotten to actually spend time with them instead of get the overview, they would have been complex and intense. There was certainly a lot of good intention going into these. I just think they were approached as truncated novels instead of short stories, and that made the whole thing fall flat.
Rating: 2 out of 5