“You should leave here, Miss Benjamin. You don’t know how cruel the master is…”
Crueler still are the secrets Cairncross Castle keeps. Secrets of a woman who cared for John Damien and Samuel as children, only to vanish amidst chilling rumors of murder. Secrets that tell of a ghost who still roams the castle’s midnight passages, and seems to command the hearts and minds of both John Damien and Samuel. Secrets that lead Alexandra through a labyrinth of twisted lies and ancient mysteries, to where the answers lie waiting…in the darkest chambers of the heart.
I first read this book 9 years ago, and it still captivates me now as much as before. This is one of the darkest and spookiest gothic novel that I’ve ever read. I shall attempt to explain why I love it so.
1. The characterization of the hero and heroine was superb. John Damien was tormented, psychologically scarred and bordered on being cruel and insane. Everyday, he wrestled with the darkness and torment within himself – all the while believing that he was doomed and unworthy. Damien himself, Alexandra and the reader would not be sure whether he was sane or insane. Yet, he was capable of loving his brother, Samuel and later, Alexandra. Alexandra, on the other hand, represented everything that was good – compassionate, patient, stoic, level-headed. I love that the expression in her eyes always made her look slightly devastated. She was no beauty – it was her innate goodness that drew Damien to her, and it was what ultimately saved him.
2. I loved that Samuel looked almost exactly like Damien – he was an adult with the mind of a child. I thought it was brilliant of the author to juxtapose these two characters who created such a conflict within Alexandra. She loved Damien. Yet, when she looked at Samuel, she could almost believe that he was Damien – only, he wasn’t.
3. The mood and atmosphere of whole story were gloomy, tense, dark and spooky. There was very little lightness, and this suited the story perfectly. One felt the sense of doom throughout the whole book.
4. The setting was brilliantly and vividly described. The story centred around Cairncross Castle, and it was described as this:
Cairncross Castle was a terrible beauty. Its gray mossy battlements perched on chalk white cliffs like a gargoyle crouched by the sea. The castle was enormous, the sprawl caused by a millennium of military architecture and bloodshed. End to end, it took near a quarter of a mile of coastline. It was a breathtaking homage to greed and the human need for protection.
In the course of the story, the reader would walk its shadowy torchlit maze of passages, enter its gloomy rooms, explore its spooky catacombs.
5. The secrets, when they were finally revealed, were chilling and evil. Only with Alexandra’s innate goodness and love could the brothers break free of the torment that bound them for so many years.
Conclusion: Truly brilliant. A keeper.