well, it’s about time. FINALLY a retelling of Wuthering Heights that
1) retains the integrity of the original material by being written in the same general tone, style and atmosphere of Wuthering Heights without the author’s feeling it necessary to turn heathcliff into a rock star or some such nonsense.
2) does not pretend that catherine and heathcliff were likable people kept apart by circumstances. they weren’t. they were both selfish assholes whose romance destroyed everything around them which is what separates their story from all those insipid Romeo and Juliet type tales. too many retellings want to turn them into martyrs, which is a complete misread.
3) adds new elements that are actually interesting and not just shoehorned in to make it not straight-up plagiarism. and you might look at this synopsis and wonder how wizards and magic could be gracefully incorporated into this story without coming across as laughable, but it works. and the book still manages to amplify the class and gender issues that exist in Wuthering Heights while incorporating all-new cultural differences and discomforts, and cleverly introducing the concept of the vendetta(!!!) as a nice little parallel to the parts of the original that are elided in this retelling.
but best of all, this book addresses and “fixes” some of the parts of Wuthering Heights that were … problematic, like how nelly could possibly have known half the things she was purporting to have known. thank god for diaries, am i right?? and catherine (lina, here) gets to have a few more scenes of powerful female indignation instead of just being a coddled whiner.
it is all-around great.
there have been some changes to the original. lina does not have a brother, and tibor (edgar) does not have a sister, so the circle of revenge and retribution is slightly adjusted. hindley’s role is mostly covered by the more unambiguously-evil masko, so there is little sympathy for him once damek (heathcliff) eventually supplants him. anna (nelly) is made to be the same age as lina, so she has a larger role in this story, as a former childhood companion of lina who witnesses lina’s transition from bossy and headstrong little girl to miserable victim to incredibly powerful force of nature. this is an improvement to the original, because her perspective has more weight than an older woman tut-tutting at a younger woman’s blind willfulness, and she knows a lot more about lina’s character than nelly ever understood about catherine’s.
the story retains its original frame-tale structure, where a character named hammel, here, travels to the harsh climate and the remoteness of the north to escape the demands of the city, and gets more excitement and danger than he bargained for after encountering the inhospitable viciousness of damek and the ghostly visitation of lina, after which he returns to his rented house to learn the story of their catastrophic love from anna. all par for the course.
and, yes, this is YA, but it is not the instant-gratification pacing and action of many YA books. this is a densely-written and poetic retelling which captures the spirit of the original. while there are plenty of scenes that are violent and tragic, this is much more a character-driven novel, with rich backstory and world-building and a fantasy-laced, utterly dark, romance. remember, without an isabella, we also don’t have a hareton, so that whole flowers-growing-out-of-the-ashes happy ending of the original is gone gone gone, and all we get are the ashes.
and that is a-ok by me.