hmmmm… this is a tough one to review.
first, with the basics: the story begins in a car where a woman is racing to a safehouse in snowdonia with her sleeping nine-year-old daughter in the backseat, and her gut-stabbed husband losing blood in the passenger seat. things are not looking good.
as the story unfolds, it takes the reader back in time to the late 1970’s at oxford, and then even further back to the late 1800’s in hungary, and the narrative will weave between these time periods and stories like a slow-moving snake tightening around you. yeah, i made a simile – BOOM!
it is a story about an ancient race of supernatural-ish beings in an invented hungarian mythology called the hosszú életek, which means “long life.” they are not, strictly speaking, immortal, but they have certain powers, the most useful of which is to be able to change their appearance to that of any human, which is great for getting girls. oh, and healing – that is also pretty useful. but the shapeshifting is the most important for our purposes today. one of these creatures is known as jakab, who is different from others of his race, and his ostracization turns him into a very bad man with violent and obsessive tendencies. his actions have consequences that are long and far-reaching, and lead to the formation of the eleni society, a group devoted to ridding the world of the életek.
while his people are being hunted down, jakab becomes infatuated with a woman, and spends a great deal of his long life stalking and tormenting her family, and the different manifestations of “her” through their generations.
enter hannah and her family. and their racing car.
hannah has been raised knowing the history between her family and jakab, and has been instructed from an early age how to “verify” a loved one’s identity. she knows how to handle herself in a dangerous situation, and she has a number of safehouses at her disposal. basically, she has been training her whole life for a confrontation that has finally come to pass.
there are several great and visual scenes that stand out in my mind – a car accident, a tense scene in a kitchen, the amazing final showdown as groups converge with conflicting purposes, and the frequent heart-fluttering realization that you might not be speaking to the person you think. good, shivery stuff.
it’s a difficult book to write about without giving too much away, but for a debut full-length novel, it is completely solid and engaging, and although i would have liked more of the oxford and eleni storylines, this was a good book to close out 2013.