Friday, 29 April 2011

review: Haunting Violet

by Alyxandra Harvey
Walker Books for Young Readers, June 21, 2011
historical paranormal young adult
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

Violet's been in on her mother's fake séances ever since she was little along with assistant Colin, but getting invited to a lord's manor, now that's pretty major -- a major step up in 1872-London's social class, and a major risk. At Lord Jasper's mansion, Violet is confronted by a real, (un)live and strangely familar ghost. Turns out Violet can actually see ghosts, unlike her mother, and the one haunting Violet is Rowena, the girl who recently died in a suspicious drowning. Violet must solve the mystery of Rowena's murderer and put her ghost to rest... or risk having Rowena's sister follow the same fate.
The cover:

Lilies and water are a bit cliché, but both have to do with the book, so it can be forgiven. The colours are also an iffy choice: the shades of purple and white complement each other, but it ends up looking like a monotone cover. What bothers me most is the girl -- is she Violet or Rowena? I suppose it doesn't matter, but it seems like a weird positioning of the model for either of them.

The book:

Haunting Violet reminded me very much of Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn. And let me tell you upfront: no book should remind me of another. Originality isn't a virtue for nothing, peeps.

That being said, a good mystery is, well, good, and that part of the book is delved into thoroughly, complete with red herrings, life-or-death situations and allies-turned-enemies (and vice versa). But since the mystery intrigues so much, the paranormal aspect starts to feel like, couldn't this mystery have been found out about and solved without any ghosts? It feels as if there's no purpose to Violet's being able to see the spirits.

There's plenty of room for more intricate details of the Victorian era. I was actually looking forward to reading about the lifestyles in London, and the setting should've practically worked itself into the story, especially with the séances worked indoors and the rises and falls in social status. Somehow, though, Violet's world didn't get conveyed to me.

The romance is also a disappointment -- it's clear from the start that Violet's prestigious lover (who, admittedly, has the cool name "Xavier") only appreciates her looks, and the feelings between Violet and Colin don't seem founded. Violet herself is an in-between protag. She's moderately assertive, moderately likeable, moderately smart... the only exceptional thing about her is her beauty. Not cool.

Rating: out of 5

PS: I think this is the most "é"s I've used in a review so far. :D