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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Decembrists by Kimberly Richardson (REVIEW)

Kimberly Richardson's The Decembrists is a Gothic tale in the contemporary tradition (or spirit, if you'll pardon the pun) of Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches and Clive Barker's Galilee. The former had the potential for a fascinating story, but buried it deep within a tedious romance, while the latter was a gorgeous tale of magic and mystery.

Richardson falls somewhere in the middle.

I'm not sure what it is about Gothic romances, but it seems as if there's a long-standing tradition of weak, flawed, distasteful characters that is carried through here. Sophie has the potential to be an interesting character, an independent, intelligent woman about to make her mark in the publishing world. If only she could have resisted the urge to dabble in a little celebrity hero-worship. Her relationship with Hilliard starts out well, an interracial romance that crosses lines of both age and class. He's a man who becomes more and more unlikable as the story moves on, however, ultimately revealing himself to be an arrogant, emotionally abusive elitist who exists solely to serve his own purposes.

This is largely a character study, a work of ideals, but it also has a intricate, long-gestating plot to carry it along. The plot depends upon three significant developments that serve to twist the tale, the first of which puts a melancholy spin on the darkness, the second of which adds just a hint of the supernatural, and the third of which brings the first two together. There's an entirely distasteful family secret at the heart of it all, a mystery wrapped in odd behaviour, impossibly lucid dreams, and suicidal urges.

Ultimately, it's a story that could benefit from some editing early on, as the lead-up to the first twist takes far too much time to achieve any sort of significance. While I understand why the story had to end the way it did, that didn't make it any more satisfying. Sophie had the opportunity to redeem herself, to free herself from the elitist world in which she became trapped, but that opportunity is wasted. Despite all that, it's a story well-told, with some intricately crafted passages that approach the level of being poetic.

It's likely a story that will appeal more to those whom identify (or at least sympathize) with Hilliard, but still offers something interesting and beautiful for those of us who are proudly to objects of his scorn . . . or disregard.

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After found as an infant crawling among books in an abandoned library, Kimberly Richardson grew up to become an eccentric woman with a taste for jazz, drinking tea, reading books, speaking French and Japanese, playing her violin and writing stories that cause people to make the strangest faces. Her first book, Tales From a Goth Librarian, was published through Kerlak Publishing and named a Finalist in both the USA Book News Awards for Fiction: Short Story for 2009 and the International Book Awards for Fiction: Short Story in 2010. Ms. Richardson is also the Editor of the award winning Steampunk anthology Dreams of Steam, the award winning sequel, Dreams of Steam II: Of Brass and Bolts, and the upcoming Dreams of Steam III, all published through Kerlak Publishing. Other short stories and poetry by Ms. Richardson have been published through Sam’s Dot Publishing, Midnight Screaming and FootHills Publishing. Her first full-length novel, The Decembrists (Kerlak Publishing), will be out in 2012. Her other book, Mabon and Pomegranate (Kerlak Publishing), will be out in 2012 as well.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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