The Last Heir to Blackwood Libraryby Hester Fox
Genres: Fiction / Fantasy / Historical
Published on April 4, 2023
Format: eBook Source: Library
With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended. With nothing to keep her in London since losing her brother in the Great War, she warily makes her way to her new home.
The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.
Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.
Lush, atmospheric and transporting, The Last Heir to Blackwood Library is a skillful reflection on memory and female agency, and a love letter to books from a writer at the height of her power.
“The sky had never held much interest for her, being in the opposite direction one must look if one was to enjoy a book”
There was so much potential here. A mysterious and malevolent library. A curse. A young woman trying to make a new life for herself after the deaths of her family. Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to its promise.
The first half was good. It was truly suspenseful and was getting almost scary. The problem is that it started to rely way too much on a literary convention that I absolutely hate – people who could solve everything if they would just freaking talk to each other.
The servants in this book know what is going on. However, they refuse to tell our heroine even when she directly asks for reasons that range from, “We don’t want to frighten you” to “I won’t because then what will we do for a plot?”
This whole thing could have been fixed if people had just communicated instead of leaving ominous warnings laying around.
Ivy wasn’t much better. She was written to waffle back and forth between Strong Modern Woman and Too Dumb to Live. Her staff won’t tell her what is going on? Fine. She’ll rush off and agree to marry the first man who talks to her – for no particularly good reason. It read almost like she had nothing better to do so Let’s Get Engaged. I know that her passivity was part of the curse but you want your protagonist to have a bit of gumption.
The worst part is that eventually she sort of remembers some stuff and realizes that a lot of plot has taken place that she doesn’t know about. This book may have been better written not from Ivy’s point of view if she was just going to wake up and be told that Things Have Happened. Have it be multiple points of view or an omniscient narrator telling a story like this.
The book reminds me a bit of the movie Momento where the main character doesn’t know what is happening and the audience has to figure it out along with him. But now imagine that movie where they give up about 3/4 of the way through and have the secondary characters gather round and explain everything instead of letting the main character figure it out. It is a disappointing ending to a good set up.