4 out of 5 stars.
I thought this was going to be a lot more fairy tale and a lot less horror, but it ended up being really creepy. Enjoyable, but creepy. This is perfect for fans of Holly Black, who like their fairy tales a little gothic and maybe with the occasional death and ghost.
Isola lives half in a fairy world, half in the real world. In our reality she takes care of her mentally ill mother, tries to connect with her detached father and hangs with her best friend Grape. When she is in the woods or alone she is visited by her faerie guardians, her prince brothers from her favourite book of fairy tales that have befriended her over the years. They protect her from supernatural threats and support her emotionally in dealing with her mother.
When Isola finds a murdered girl hanging in a cage in the woods, the forest is changed from the safe fairy kingdom of her childhood to a nightmare. Every night, the ghost of the murdered girl stands on Isola’s lawn and cries and wails. The brother princes try to protect Isola, but one by one they fall, until it is just Isola herself up against a spirit who wants to invade and tear her apart.
The most intriguing relationship is that between Isola and her mother. Her mother seems to struggle with bipolar disorder and, since her father is uninterested, it is Isola that watches and tends to her mother. Isola struggles between love for her mother and anger at her mother’s illness and behaviour. I found it a very compelling and realistic portrayal of the emotions invalid in having to care for someone who is profoundly mentally ill. There is anger at the person’s behaviour mixed in with the dedication to a loved one. Near handled the subject beautifully and with sensitivity.
This novel is almost devoid of romance and focuses more on friendship and familial relations. I found it a most welcome change. This one was spooky and written very well.