Before I start with this review, allow me to tell you a bit about myself. It won’t take more than a minute, I swear.
Now then… I’m a scaredy-cat – official and confirmed. I can’t watch something spooky or scary – in favor of saving someface, let’s not get on the topic of thrillers and horror movies – without having to beg my 12-year-old brother to sleep in my room so I can get some shut-eye (so much for saving face…). My imagination is on such an unhealthy level – which I have mentioned countless times – that I think I hear or see the monster or villain or psycho behind every curtain or under my bed or in every – even remotely – shadowed corner. Now imagine a person like me reading something that comes even close to those spooky things I avoid like the plague when they’re on the TV, and you’ll start wondering what the hell was this book doing in my greedy little hands.
Still, I will forever be a masochist that gets done in by an engaging blurb and a professionally done cover – sue me, I admit I’m guilty as charged! So I decided to give Netherworld a chance – and swore I would read it to the very end, no matter what – and you know what? I’m damn proud and glad I did, because otherwise I would have missed out on witnessing such a thrilling story with one of the most intriguing main casts yet!
Diana Furnaval is a young widow in Victorian England that is unlike any other woman at her age, her time, and her position would be. Seeking revenge and justice, she sets on a personal mission to close all the gateways that connect our world with the world from which the fiends that killed her husband, William, come – the Netherworld. But she’s not alone on this task. Stephen Chappell – a mysterious, all-too-knowing book merchant – , Leung Yi-kin – a young Chinese sailor with exceptional fighting skills – , Isadora Feduchin – a medium that can communicate with the other side and bring messages from the Netherworld – , and Mina – Diana’s trusty feline pet that can sense both the gateways and the creatures that pass through them – are by her side, ready to help her in her efforts to defend humanity from the things that go bump in the night and cut off all connections to the Netherworld once and for all. Still, the residents of the other side are not about to give up on conquering our world so easily – and they will use every dirty trick to get Diana either off track or six feet under, if that’s what it takes.
I believe now you see what I meant by interesting and intriguing, right? Diana, as a main character, is every bit the strong and determined lady a female lead in such stories should be. But not in a non-believable way. Though she gets scared like every normal person, she knows her mission is important, and ignores her own comforts and safety to make sure the demons frequenting her life will hurt the smallest possible number of people the way they have hurt her. She understands the risks, and while she’s often quite stubborn, her self-sacrifices are not to be ignored. She studies her enemies and plans carefully before advancing, and she’s moralistic to a fault. And she’s not above trying new things, all the while keeping her personality and traits intact. She may be loyal to her late husband, and still love him, but she doesn’t push away the possibility of new feelings towards another man – thank God for that, because I seriously shipped that particular pairing called DianaXStephen!
Stephen was my personal wet dream – I don’t care if he didn’t come off as sexy, the guy is something of a mysterious scholar with many secrets up his sleeve, and sells books, that counts as one of the hottest traits in my book! Yi-kin was adorabble – there were times I just wanted to squeeze the hell out of him – and Isadora was every bit the eccentric and funny woman a medium can be. As for Mina, well, I’m not exactly a cats person – scratch that, I hate them to death – but this particular feline was after my own heart. She was very clever, not the least bit the annoying, hissing, snobbish monster that most creatures of her kind are. And hey, any animal that rushes to save their mistress and her friends first thing when they come upon danger, is ok IMHO.
Even without the golden main cast, though, the book was one of the best I’ve come across in the paranormal genre. The plot alone was worth every single night I spent with all lights on and backed in my bed’s corner. And those extra few seconds it took me to check under my bed and behind my curtains before I went to sleep. The story started in a way that most writers seem to ignore, yet Lisa Morton managed to follow it in a flawless fashion. According to many creative writing lecturers, the best way to start a book is to provide the hook – lure the reader deep enough to get them hooked, and THEN provide more details on the main character and the plot, with flashbacks and the usual. And she did just fine in that department. The prologue had me so freaked out, I stopped reading – damn, I usually read out loud, and when I realized what that thing in the church was chanting and what, as a result, I was murmuring, I shrieked – and took a couple of minutes before resuming, this time in my head, because I’m superstitious enough to fear I might summon something if I say the words loudly. Now, normally, I would leave the book in DNF state right then and there. But the writer had made it impossible by then, so I couldn’t do a damn thing, other than keep up with the story – and I don’t regret it at all. Still, I’m telling you, if anyone ever decides to makeNetherworld into a movie, I will NOT go watch it, no matter how many millions it will make (because I’m sure it will!) – one time through all this fearful torture was enough, thank you very much.
The brilliance of this book, however, didn’t stop there. It was also quite accurate in its lore. Ms. Morton took great care in her research in both the western and the eastern spooky legends. And then used it in such a detailed yet enjoyable way, it was more like academical fun times than boring and overbearing lectures. Sort of like how a good uni professor manages to make a subject interesting enough to get you to study and pay attention, without overdoing it.
The only drawback in all this was that Diana was a bit too self-righteous at times. While I admire her morality and her idealism, it tended to make her less of a realist – when she was claimed as a realist herself at the start of the book. It was a bit contradicting. Then, there was the question about her fortune. I understand that the Furnaval family had a lot of money, but the reason behind that wealth was never explained throughout the book. Were they merchants? Had a lot of land that they sold to suit their monetary needs? Or was it something else?
But I refuse to lower the rating because of those two minor problems of mine. This book deserved the highest rating possible for managing to keep me reading even when I was scared out my mind. The action, the cynical and sometimes macabre humor, the legends and the writer’s personal voice are only a few of the reasons why this series should be in your TR list ASAP! I myself – no matter how masochistic it may sound – can’t wait for the next book!!!
***I was given a review copy from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers November 2013 Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***