Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home

Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
Completed 9/11/2021, Reviewed 9/12/2021
4 stars

Another good conclusion of a trilogy whose second book I didn’t care for as much.  I really liked the first book, Welcome to Night Vale.  The second was It Devours.  This volume mostly took place outside of Night Vale.  It had a more ordinary story telling style, giving the life history of the featured ghost from Night Vale when she lived in Europe and then told how she became a ghost and attached to the family she haunted.  It’s a story of innocence and its loss, followed by a lifelong obsession of revenge.  I found it intriguing and enjoyable, though it is a very dark tale.

The bracketing story follows the Faceless Old Woman who haunts Craig in Night Vale.  She watched over him as a child and nudges him from being directionless to having some meaning in his life.  Between these episodes, the woman tells of the major episodes of her own life which began as a motherless girl living with her father somewhere on the Mediterranean.  She lives a life of innocence, loving her dad, but not understanding what he does.  She eventually finds out he’s a smuggler.  His business partner is Edmond, his complicit accountant who she considers an uncle.  One day the treacherous Order of the Labyrinth burns down their house and kills her father.  Devastated, she plans her revenge on everyone involved.  The episodes continue through her being a thief and assassin, followed by a swashbuckling life on the sea, all the while seeking to satisfy her need for revenge for her father’s death.

The world building was really good.  A good part of the action dealt with a fictional small country in Europe, and only a few actual cities were named throughout the book.  It was all very believable, taking place in the 1800’s.  The characterization was pretty good.  It wasn’t outstanding, with the Woman being only two-dimensional with her revenge obsession.  Still, I felt empathy for her and her little ragtag group of criminal allies.  I think it was the prose that kept me going, infusing life into the characters by the descriptions of the action.  It was their well-described adventures, including their successes and failures, which made me appreciate them.

I thought the ending was quite remarkable.  It was a huge twist that revealed truths to the Woman which she had not seen her whole life.  I didn’t see it coming either.  It was very well done and then segues into how she finally ends up in Night Vale haunting Craig.  The narrative of her swashbuckling life was exciting, but the ending was phenomenal.  

I give this book four stars out of five.  It’s billed as a horror story, as the other volumes were, but there’s not much typical horror.  Instead it’s a rousing story of revenge and destruction and finally pathos.

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