House of Fallen Trees by Gina Ranalli

House of Fallen TreesHouse of Fallen Trees by Gina Ranalli

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Karen Lewis is surprised to receive a call from her estranged brother’s partner, especially when said brother disappeared some time ago. Eager to learn more of his life, and perhaps even gain insight into his whereabouts, Karen agrees to visit the bed and breakfast she’s apparently now partly in ownership of. If the rural town of Fallen Trees wasn’t remote enough, the odd business her sibling was working on is even more isolated, and something within it seems restless.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

This was the first ever group read for the Ladies of Horror Fiction team, adequately named Banshee Reads. We were all fairly excited and eager to jump right in, but our optimism was quickly snuffed out along with any possibility of an enjoyable experience. My own thoughts are, of course, similar to my fellow banshees; I believe Ranalli had an idea, perhaps a solid one, but didn’t quite get the execution down. There were inconsistencies in the timeline, poor characterisation and a general messy approach of several elements. The main character was depicted as a person out of touch with reality, frequently locking herself away in her mind in a very extreme sense; losing hours and even days. At first I thought this would have had some sort of relevance – nobody in their right mind zones out for that length of time – but it didn’t. Perhaps it was an attempt to portray her as quirky, but Karen truly was a weak protagonist, in every sense of the word. If not drowning in her own head, she was screaming for what seemed like the majority of the book, and too-often fled to the men to save her. Ranalli tried to justify the unappealing lack of courage by adding in this little gem; there was no denying that having a guy around made a woman statically safer. So much for a strong female lead, eh?

I don’t even want to get into the other two; clichĂ©, uninteresting – the one that had to serve as a weak form of a romantic interest, and the dislikeable one that much acted like the typical villain.

I admit, I found some scenes to emanate an eeriness that definitely sparked potential. I believed the plot was leading up to something that might well have surpassed my negative opinions, but in actuality, it was so painfully anticlimactic. The phrase that started it all and was a consistent factor throughout – two men have the carcass – was nothing but a misleading plot device; an attempt to instil a sense of mystery, which it successfully did, right up until the nonsensical conclusion. This appeared to be a common theme, in that several things were added and left vague, were outright pointless or simply held no significance. The physic connection between brother and sister for instance, completely baffled me in its absurdity – the “we had it once, but it went away, but now it’s suddenly back” just didn’t strike me as a decent explanation.

I have a lot of complaints, yes, but there were minor aspects that made it stand out ever-so-slightly. The ship in the middle of the woods was certainly unique, and the survival of the dog was, of course, appreciated. Everything else, though – the haunting, the mishmash of ideas that were clumsy, the characters that I didn’t connect to – it didn’t work for me. I don’t want to necessarily use the word “amateur”, but overall, I was given the impression of an author trying too hard, rather than appropriately tying it all together.

In conclusion: I found many problems with this one, and that doesn’t include the unoriginal concept. It, most times, didn’t add up. There were many inconsistencies and eye-rolling moments. Whilst I don’t recommend it, many have and still are enjoying Karen’s little adventure, so don’t take my word for it.

Notable Quote:

Sleep was her friend, almost a lover,and now she needed to mate with it, become one and just disappear for a time.

© Red Lace 2018

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