**This e-ARC was provided for review purposes through NetGalley!**
What It's About:
Anathema Island has been the home of the Blackburn daughters for 8 generations, ever since Rona Blackburn traveled there to make a new home for herself. The thing is, Rona didn't get along so well with the original settlers of the island, who feared her strange ways and uncanny powers. When they tried to burn her home down--with her inside of it--she cast a spell that bound their bloodlines to the well-being of the island and her own family.
Generations later, the youngest Blackburn daughter, Nor, hopes the "gifts" that come with her lineage leave her with an uneventful life. However, when a strange book shows up promising spells that could only be successfully completed by someone possessing Rona Blackburn's full abilities, Nor senses something bad is coming--and she suspects it comes in the form of her estranged, powerful mother.
What I thought:
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Mostly it was the wonderfully witchy ambiance that was captured so well in the story and setting. If Anathema Island was a real place, I'd definitely want to visit. Probably wouldn't like to live there, since crazy stuff happens to people who live on the island, but I'd probably want to check out the lake and shops and sweet nature trails, at least.
The moody setting paired with the actually witchy characters was hitting all of the buttons for me. This would be a great one to read on a crisp fall evening close to Halloween. The Blackburn women are so compelling and I really want to know more about the women between Rona, Judd, Fern, & Nor. I just really adore a cast of characters made up mostly of a long line of generational witches.
Another thing I liked about this book was that it had the perfect combo of intrigue, magic, & mystery mixed with this super intense underlying feeling of foreboding and dread. You will, when reading this book, definitely get a true bit of stomach-clenching stress while waiting for the ball to drop (and by the ball dropping, I mean Fern showing up on the island). We keep getting snippets and bits of information both about what she's up to in the present intermingled with Nor's memories of the past, so you slowly learn how terrifying and BAD it is that she's up to her old tricks in a big way.
I also really enjoyed that the focus in the story was on the relationships between Nor and literally everyone else on the island. Spoiler Alert! She's related to every original settling family, which provides for a very interesting dynamic, especially considering the reason for those relationships and shared blood is caused by the curse Rona Blackburn put on them back in the day. I loved her relationships with Judd and Madge and her grandfather, because they were so diverse and that made the story feel more realistic.
And lest I go through this whole review without mentioning the conflict and antagonist of the story, I'm gonna talk about it: Fern. Fern, the Blackburn daughter with a super creepy power who realizes that she can use it to gain a semblance of the full Blackburn powers she's always wanted. Let me tell you, Fern is an awesome character, solely because she's terrifying. I don't want to spoil a whole lot, but the way she gains her influence in the world is *so* creepy. Like....a "the body snatchers took away my mom and dad and nobody will believe me because the cops are also body snatchers" kind of creepy, which just adds to the panic and feeling of doom that resonates throughout this story.
So listen, if moody, witchy vibes and a great antagonist sound like your kind of read, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Alternately, you could pick it up then put it down until October to further immerse yourself in a spooky and thematic setting for your reading!
Rating: 4 stars.