By Patricia Elliot
“Clouds hang low in the sky where I live. They seem to touch the flat brown fields around our village, and to shadow the broad backs of the horses pulling the plow. They drift across the wide sky like swans’ feathers.
There were swans on the mere when I first went to Murkmere Hall, the first time I met Leah. There are still swans there today, but everything else has changed. All I knew then was what I saw around me: the village, the fields, and, behind its iron gates on the Wasteland road, the great shadowy expanse of the Murkmere estate. In those days I knew nothing of corruption and betrayal, and the evil of ambitious men.
But you can’t wipe away the past like chalk from a slate. I can never be that innocent girl again. I am someone else now.” (p. 1)
Why I picked it up:
I liked the cover image, girl and swan woven together; it reminds me of one of my favorite fairy tales, known as “The Six Swans,” where a girl’s brothers are all turned into swans by an evil witch (their stepmother, in some versions) and their sister must weave them each a shirt out of nettles by moonlight in order to break the spell. I also really liked the first page, quoted above.
Why I finished it:
I loved the dark, atmospheric tone. Murkmere truly is a murky place, not only weather-wise but also because of all the secrets the members of the estate are hiding. The story does have some similarities to the fairy tale of the six swans, but it’s almost like an inversion of that tale. It feels very Gothic in style; parts of it reminded me strongly of Jane Eyre, one of my favorite novels.
I’d give it to:
Anyone who enjoys Gothic literature, especially stories like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Fans of Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy, expecially Daughter of the Forest, will also probably enjoy this book.
I’d give it:
Four stars. I’d give it five, but the subplot of the tyrannical rule of the Ministration never really goes anywhere and probably could have been left out. However, there is a sequel, Ambergate, which might wrap up some of the loose threads Murkmere doesn’t resolve.
Reviewed by: Francesca (Davis)