Lauren Owens ~ Small Angels
As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbour from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonnes sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church on the edge of dense green woods.
The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself. But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.
Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village where her fiancé, Sam, and his sister Kate, grew up. But days before the ceremony, Chloe starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels – and worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.
Now Kate is returning home for the first time in years for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself.
I adore gothic fiction: there’s something about the unknown darkness in a place of beauty that really appeals to me. We are all clouded in shadow for much of our life, with spine prickles, premonitions and senses of foreboding sneaking up on us at random intervals.
Small Angels is definitely creepy. Something so pure and wonderful as a church wedding of a young couple, is threatened by an evil that lurks in the woods.
At first, a lot of the story is hinted at and you’re never sure whether we are facing ghosts, or just mystery. But as the story progresses, it gets darker and we realise what really happened in Mockbeggar and why the town refuses to talk about it.
Owen’s writing is sublime and really envelopes you in her story. We feel stifled by the woods, ensnared by the scents and curious as to the characters.
Lucia and Kate are fantastic characters and watching their relationship from children to adults is fascinating. Lucia’s mischievous daring streak contrasts with that of her sisters, but the bond the children share is lovely. Chloe too is interesting; she is determined to find out the truth before her wedding takes place, unaware that danger is on its way.
Mockbeggar itself is an enthralling character, lost in the past but with its own secrets, tragedies and tales of vengeance. Owen’s poetic prose is so powerful that you are there in the woods, walking amongst the trees, thorns and thickets, overpowered by the smell of roses that makes you feel slightly sick.
While the multiple narratives and timelines are enjoyable and work well, the middle of the book is a bit slow and it loses some of its initial charm. However, the ending is satisfactory and overall Small Angels is a magical gothic tale with enough horror to make you nervous, but not too much to make you lose sleep.
Small Angels is published by Tinder Press. Thanks to the publisher and PR company for my proof copies. Opinions my own.
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