by J.R. Wagner
5 out of 5 Stars
Margaret lives in a constant state of fear. Fear of her mother, whose constant state of anger and unwillingness to speak of Margaret's past have long since pushed Margaret away. Fear of disappointing her father should he ever discover the events of that day. Most of all, Margaret lives in fear of her abuser's return. Margaret turns to self-harm to cope with her pain and fear. Only when her self-inflicted injuries bring her near death does she realize she has the power and the support from an unlikely place to stand up to her fears and believe in herself again. Tristis Manor is a novella from The Never Chronicles, an epic fantasy series.
I hadn't read any of the Never Chronicles yet so I'll be reviewing this novella as a stand alone, which it can quite surprisingly be taken as.
This short, very dark story is gripping and a page turner in every sense of the word. J.R. Wagner was able to bring across a hauntingly disturbing story of a nine year old girl who suffers abuse at the hand of her mother. The way that she deals with the pain and humiliation is completely real and shows a depth of understanding not common in books geared towards young adults or in the epic fantasy genre.
Margaret copes with her hurts by escaping - with self-inflicted pain, rituals, books, and personal hiding places. These allow her to be safe only because she is in control, a small respite in a world where nothing is as it should be.
What keeps Margaret from insanity are the adults that stay on to protect her despite being physically and verbally abused themselves. The housekeeper, Miss Seeley, takes the lead in protecting her and the rest of the staff follow. Her father plays the biggest part in keeping life as normal as possible.
Unfortunately, the father is a civil servant whose job requires him to travel and work in distant offices for long periods of time. This allows her mother plenty of chances to belittle, demean, and endanger her daughter.
However, Margaret is incredibly resilient and is able to cope with the crushing abuse through the care of the household staff, talks and gifts from her father, her mother instinct to protect her younger sister, and a little help from an alternate reality in a magical realm.
Sometimes Margaret's perception of what she discovers seems so skewed that you'd wonder if she is still in her right mind! This sense of being askew is what truly makes this novella interesting. You're so busy trying to get yourself back in balance that by the time you can mentally stand up straight, the book ends. You're just as disconcerted as Margaret, you completely agree with her convictions, and J.R. Wagner has done a brilliant job.
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in an exchange for an honest review.
View all my reviews
View all my reviews