Immortal (Book 1), by Gillian Shields
Release Date: August 2009
Publisher: Harper Teen
Received: Library book
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Evie Johnson enters Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, a spooky boarding school on the English moors, on the eve of tragedy. Her grandmother, who has raised Evie after the tragic drowning death of her mother, has been struck with a debilitating stroke. Grandmother sends Evie off to boarding school with a necklace and the implied message to keep it close. Like Sarah Crewe in A Little Princess, Evie enters Wyldecliffe and promptly earns the ire of the headmistress and the wrath of the popular girl. Complicating matters further are ghostly sightings of a red-haired woman only Evie can see and a brash and mysterious boy reminiscent of Wuthering Height's Heathcliff, whom Evie meets in nightly trysts. As the story progresses, Evie joins forces with two students to unravel the mystery surrounding the school's history, a murder, and the increasing paranormal occurrences.
Had this book been written a little differently, it would have been fantastic. The plot is great: engaging, fast-paced, multi-layered mysteries, and a delicious Gothic horror vibe. There are many different clues, mysteries, and directions, and the author manages to tie them all up in a satisfying way. However, when it comes to characters, Shields didn't excel for me. Her characters struck me as mostly flat and I found them hard to relate to or care much about, which made it a little difficult for me to become fully immersed in the story. I felt far more connected to Agnes than Evie. The romance between Evie and Sebastian was also somewhat unconvincing, though Sebastian is believably good and bad, and maybe even kind of crazy (as he seems meant to be).
This is the first in a series of at least two books, and does end on a cliffhanger. While I might have rated this a 3 ½, I'm bumping it up to four stars because 1) the plot is awesome, 2) I'm hoping the author improves her character development in the next book, and 3) I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to books that start a series. I'm looking forward to the next book.
One final piece of advice: For people turned off by Sebastian and Evie's dramatic (melodramatic, even histrionic) relationship, my advice is to realize they are channeling the passions and characteristics of Gothic fiction heroes. They're supposed to to be overly emotional, even absurdly emotional. It's like a soap opera set on the moors. They're not supposed to be realistic; they're supposed to be Gothic. At least, that's how I see them. Maybe that's not what Shields intended, but when I view them in this manner I'm able to enjoy them and not become overly critical about how realistic their relationship is or isn't. I can then just sit back and let myself get caught up in the theatrics.
Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key
You might also like:Cover review of Immortal
Review of Betrayal (book 2)