Thank you to Viking Books/Penguin Young Readers for a copy of These Fleeting Shadows in exchange for an honest review.
Helen Vaughan doesn’t know why she and her mother left their ancestral home at Harrowstone Hall, called Harrow, or why they haven’t spoken to their extended family since. So when her grandfather dies, she’s shocked to learn that he has left everything — the house, the grounds, and the money — to her. The inheritance comes with one condition: she must stay on the grounds of Harrow for one full year, or she’ll be left with nothing.
There is more at stake than money. For as long as she can remember, Harrow has haunted Helen’s dreams — and now those dreams have become a waking nightmare. Helen knows that if she is going to survive the year, she needs to uncover the secrets of Harrow. Why is the house built like a labyrinth? What is digging the holes that appear in the woods each night? And why does the house itself seem to be making her sick?
With each twisted revelation, Helen questions what she knows about Harrow, her family, and even herself. She no longer wonders if she wants to leave … but if she can. — from the publisher.
Light spoilers are ahead …
So the elevator pitch for Kate Alice Marshall’s These Fleeting Shadows is “The Haunting of Hill House meets Knives Out.” Considering I haven’t actually seen either of those works, I can’t say for sure, but that sounds darn accurate.
While this book certainly has its fair share of the supernatural, that’s not really what makes it scary. There are no jump scares in These Fleeting Shadows, but ritual filicide of daughters is pretty horrifying, no?
Yes, as with many genre works, Marshall’s novel is more than meets the eye. The cycles of family traumas that Marshall deals with in These Fleeting Shadows are made literal cycles in the text. What could have become facile in the wrong hands becomes a deftly maneuvered sleight of hand layered with an empowering message.
The story is told in this utterly bizarre, feverish dream-like loop of lost time. I kinda wanted to live in it, even amongst all the tragedy and chaos.
It’s not often I’m surprised by books anymore — gosh, that makes me sound like a jerk — but I so wasn’t expecting These Fleeting Shadows to go where it does. The twists were such a pleasant surprise! So much so that I found myself wondering until the very end who was gonna screw over whom else. And how. Which, in a horror novel, is a good thing.
Woah woah woah.
These Fleeting Shadows is deeper than this, but oh man, would it be such a good bad horror movie. The initial premise is definitely silly enough that someone could run with it Some of the visual images are just so out there that I kinda want someone to take it and ruin it by making it a terrible B movie? Is that awful?
I mean absolutely no disrespect to this book — just the opposite.
Should you read it?
Heck, yah! If you’re a fan of spooky things, you’ll adore this. Do you just like queer YA? Great! You’ll love this, too! I can really see fans of Tessa Gratton‘s Night Shine getting into These Fleeting Shadows. Unless you really can’t do any kind of gore, you’ll probably devour this book.
P.S. I want — nay — I demand that These Fleeting Shadows be made into a streaming service Halloween-time horror movie.
These Fleeting Shadows is out on August 9. Pick up a copy at your local indie book store or library. 💀👤📚
Content warnings: Blood, body horror, murder, child death/murder, queerphobia, abuse, sexual assault (referenced) and lobotomy.