-also sold as the Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
I really debated reviewing this book here. First, it isn’t YA. Second, it has been out for a while now. Third, it is painful for me to write a realistic review of a book I didn’t like but I did enjoy.
That isn’t quite the contradiction it seems. I have had the experience of enjoying books but not liking them before. Consider Dan Browne, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. With just a few exceptions*, if I start one of these author’s books, I have to finish them. But I am not drawn in by the words or the characters. I am just being a plot junkie. I have to know the ending and how we got there… it is all about the road, baby. But the vehicle, the company, the music – not worth mentioning. And plot is what made me stick it out for 7 1/2 Deaths. PS. I seem to have a pathological needs for this to be the 7 1/2 LIVES of Evelyn Hardcastle. Forgive me if I slip.
This is a convoluted, somewhat magical, story that takes place in a place devoid of modern conveniences. We are told, as fact, that a guest will murder one of the host. And the unraveling of this murder takes place over the course of one 24 hour period, for 8 different narrators who are actually one character.
Certainly lay, people enjoy different things. I did not realize until reading this book how important it was for me to sympathize and empathize with the main characters. In this story, it is impossible to get close to these characters because they aren’t who they really are. And the character you are supposed to know, he morphs so much he doesn’t really have enough substance to love or hate. So his decisions, falling in complete “like” with several of the female characters, seem a bit contrived. He just seems to stick his neck out there fairly readily for a group of people he doesn’t really seem to have a realistic attachment to.
The explanation of how this repeated day occurs is not exactly given short schrif but is so anathema to the setting of the majority of the plot that it definitely kicked me out of the story world rudely. The true revelation of what is going on, why there is this life recycling is not discovered so much as told. And I am pretty sure there is a ‘rule’ about showing not telling in novels. Still up until this scene, I was desperate to visualize the plot (of the 8 character recycling). I searched online for a mind map or a chart or a timeline – but to no avail. I started to make one myself and then I realized I really didn’t care enough to continue.
With that revelation, I consumed the rest of the novel to be able to close the book so to speak on this story. The lack of compelling word artistry, the constant disintegration of the main character, I just ignored it all and read to the end.
If you are a plot junkie, have at it. Bring a paper and pen perhaps. But if you are set on lyrical words, deep world building, or significant character development, I don’t think you will be happy. Honestly, the title was the best part.
*Exceptions for me seem to be time travel related. I think Koontz’s Lightening and King’s 11.23.63 (less so with the ending) were both some of their most original and compelling writing. Everything else seems to be the same story on rewind.