Thursday, September 15, 2022

Eden's Everdark

Strong, Karen. Eden's Everdark
September 6th 2022 by Simon & Schuster
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Eden and her father are going to visit her mother's family in Georgia. They have own most of Safia Island for generations, but her mother suffered an accident there in the wake of her parents' divorce, went to the mainland to recover, and never wanted to return. Now, grieving her death from a brain aneurysm, Eden and her father are hoping to reconnect with her extended family and understand this unusual place. The relatives are all glad to meet Eden, feed her great Southern food and make a fuss over her, but don't share a lot of stories, so Eden still doesn't understand why her mother didn't want to return to Willow Hammock. It's an interesting place, but the old mansion they visit seems especially creepy after Eden has been plagued with weird and unsettling dreams inspired by sketchbooks of her mother's she finds in her room. When she goes on a walk and ends up getting lost, she is plunged into the world of Everdark and captured by Mother Mary, a frightening witch with long, scary nails. The witch has several others in her thrall, from Bull, who is her butler, to Netty and Grace, girls who died years ago. Eden is still alive, but won't be for long if Mother Mary has her way. She wants to keep Eden as her daughter, dressing her up and having her watch movies with her, and is willing to watch her die slowly. Eden tries to escape, but can't find a way. She eventually makes it out of the house, and with the help of two ghost boys, is directed to Ruby. Unfortunately, Ruby isn't as helpful as she seems, and Eden is soon back in the creepy house. Will she be able to harness the inner magic she didn't know she had in order to overcome this frightening world?
Strengths: The part of this I liked best was Eden's introduction to family that she hadn't met, and her reconnection to their culture. Like Strong's Just South of Home, it was a good look at the interesting dichotomy of being from the North but having roots in the South. Everdark and Mother Mary were creepy in a slowly built up way, and Eden's desperation to escape increases like the spots of rot she can see on the ceilings of the house. Why is humidity so creepy? The historical timeline of the different characters was fascinating; some of the ghosts were born as enslaved people, and Mother Mary was an entertainer right before the crash of 1929. Eden's grief over her mother's death is worked in nicely, and there is some closure for this as well. 
Weaknesses: This does not start out as a very scary book, and I'm afraid that some readers will have to be encouraged to keep going until the creepy things start to happen. The horror readers in my school want dead bodies or murderous ghosts right away! 
What I really think: Readers who want scary stories with a touch of Southern culture, like Dawson's Mine or Howard's The Visitors will enjoy the humid, magical atmosphere of this one. The family lore and powers reminded me just of bit of Baptiste's The Jumbies as well. 
 Ms. Yingling

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