25 May 2019

Mini Reviews: Nightfall Gardens and The Shadow Garden by Allen Houston


grayscale picture of man standing in front of big creepy house
Vain Lily Blackwood and her shy brother Silas wonder if their family will ever settle in one place long enough to lead a normal life. When a mysterious stranger arrives claiming to be their uncle, they discover their parents have been hiding a secret that turns their world upside down. 

The two are kidnapped to Nightfall Gardens, the family’s ancestral home, a place shrouded in ancient mystery, where they meet their dying grandmother and learn of an age-old curse placed on Blackwood females. 

Lily must take over as protector of the house and three haunted gardens that hold mythical beasts, fairy-tale nightmares and far worse. If she doesn’t, the evil trapped there will be unleashed and bring on a new dark age. 

While she deals with malevolent ghosts inside the house, Silas is put to work in the gardens, where one wrong step means death. 

Along the way, they search to unlock the secrets of the house and to stop the creatures in the gardens before time runs out and the world is destroyed.



Goodreads/Amazon


Cup of coffee and drawing book with picture of a cat on a desk with words Mini Review in script

Why Did I Pick This Book?
Um, that cover of course! That cover says dark, gothic fiction. I didn't even realize that it was a MG book. I came for the cover, but I stayed for the story. Curses, fairy-tale nightmares, mythical beasts, ghosts? Yes, please! 

What About the Characters? 
I loved Silas' bravery. Lily was a bit stuck on herself but she grew on me. The "monsters" were creepy and splendid. The house was it's own deadly being — constantly morphing to the surprise of everyone. The staff was fantastic. I loved the housemaid. She was gross and funny all at once. 

Should you read it?
Did you like The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney or Coraline by Neil Gaiman? Then you should definitely read it!







Precocious Lily Blackwood carries a responsibility far greater than other people.


As the last female Blackwood, she must keep the evils in Pandora’s Box from destroying the world. With the help of her younger brother Silas, the dusk riders and her best friend Cassandra, she must protect Nightfall Gardens and ensure that the fairy-tale monsters, old gods and deathly shades stay separated from humanity. But now, the creatures bound to the Gardens are gaining strength and threatening to break loose.

Bemisch, a malevolent witch, has escaped into the mist land to join forces with Eldritch, a powerful nature god. The mysterious Smiling Ladies hold the key to a dark secret from the Blackwood family’s past, and something once again roams the halls of the manor, trying to kill Lily.

Worse yet, her fourteenth birthday is approaching and with it a dangerous rite of passage. Lily must enter the Shadow Garden, home of all that is nightmarish, and come face to face with her most terrifying threat yet.

Goodreads/Amazon


Cup of coffee and drawing book with picture of a cat on a desk with words Mini Review in script

Well, how was it?
This one suffered only a little from "middle book" syndrome. Definitely darker than the first. We get deeper into the backstory of the house and the Gardens. It splits scenes between Lily at the house and Silas out with the riders in the mist, which annoys me while reading, but that's just my personal quirk.

I liked: getting to know the side characters better, especially Cassandra. The creep factor turned up in The Shadow Gardens. The scene in the crypt? Perfectly disturbing.

Would I recommend it? 
You betcha. The third book in the series, The Labyrinth is on my TBR!









DIVIDER

About the Author


Allen Houston grew up in Bixby, Oklahoma.
He attended the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a degree in English Literature. After graduation, he lived in Indonesia and Japan. Upon returning to the states, he worked as a reporter/editor at the the Dallas Morning News and The New York Post and as City Editor of Metro New York. Allen resides in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. After Imogen was born, he began writing a story for her and Nightfall Gardens was created.