Here They Lie | The Bloodstone Legacy #1 | ISBN 9781942239079 | Three Owl Press, 2015 | 1.5 out of 5 Points
“One town. Three families. A secret that refuses to stay buried. Now the deadly legacy passes to a new generation. After her aunt’s untimely death, Reese Everett is summoned to Devil’s Vale, Georgia. Colton Waters is returning home for an entirely different reason. Their lives soon become entangled as a generations-old secret comes to light.”
Oh man, oh man, oh man. This book’s cover is gorgeous and so is the title. Everything about “Here They Lie”’s appearance is very beautiful, evoking exactly the kind of Southern Gothic Romance atmosphere I wanted from the book. The problem is that the book doesn’t deliver though. I hate having to say this because D.K. Burrow, who also writes Young Adult Fiction under the name D’Ann Burrow, seems like such a nice lady. But “Here They Lie” was a very disappointing read for me even though I wish it wasn’t so.
HERE THEY DRAG OUT THE PLOT
I love gothic fiction, especially Southern Gothic. There’s just something about the southern United States that fascinates me quite a lot so when I found “Here They Lie” on a list on Goodreads, I gave it a shot. It didn’t go so well.
My main problem with the novel is how, for lack of a better word, uninspired it is. There’s nothing new or exciting about the premise. “Here They Lie”’s got the old dark family secrets, a haunted house, a town full of lies… I love all these tropes to death but I only love them if the author does something special with them. D.K. Burrow just presents them to her readers as is though and there’s no thrill in that. It’s been done and done better before. The whole novel is made up of tired old tropes and storylines we’ve seen before a dozen times with no fresh new ideas as its saving grace.
You’ve got your sleepy Southern town (called Devil’s Vale because you wouldn’t wanna be too subtle) where everyone keeps secrets, your plucky heroine from the big city inheriting a scary old house, your poltergeist haunting (complete with mysterious writing on a mirror) and your dark family secrets. Nothing’s wrong with any of these elements but you’ve gotta use them right and Burrow doesn’t. “Here They Lie” is a generic Gothic Romance that adds nothing new to the genre at all and after turning the last page, I wondered what I’d read the book for. I would have probably given it 3 out of 5 points, had it just been a generic but entertaining read. But it wasn’t entertaining either for a plethora of reasons.
There’s something seriously wrong with the pacing. “Here They Lie” is only about 280 pages long but it drags a lot, especially in the beginning. Before any of the mysterious stuff even happens, Reese and Colton spent quite a few chapters doing other stuff. Colton helps his best friend clear out the friend’s father’s office after his suicide, Reese drives to Devil’s Vale, takes a look at the house and knocks Colton’s lights out (more on that later). It’s not like these things aren’t important for the story but they’re dragged out a lot, so much that the actual haunting and looking for answers only ever really begins after the book is already halfway over and the romance doesn’t get going until there’s only a handful of chapters left either. There’s just too much exposition, too much building and then not enough active action on the heroine’s and hero’s part. This leads to a serious lack of tension that nearly made me put the book down.
Pro tip: If your first book in a series is literally just exposition and the story only really starts about a 100 pages before the book is over, maybe you need to revise your plot again because it’s clearly not working the way it should.
HERE THEY MAKE FRIENDS WITH BURGLARS
A lot of the characters’ actions also don’t make sense. Like at all. “Here They Lie” is clearly plot driven. That’s not a bad thing per se but it’s a bad thing in “Here They Lie”. Burrow makes her characters act a certain way, think a certain thing, come to a certain conclusion or ask a question to move the plot along, even if it doesn’t make any sense for them to do so.
When Reese first meets Colton, she thinks he’s a burglar because he’s sneaking around her backyard at night, so she goes outside, hits him over the head with a shovel and then… drags his unconscious body inside. I guess Burrow wanted to make these future lovers’ first meeting as memorable as possible but it does not make any sense. Reese thinks Colton is a burglar, for God’s sake. She’s a young petite woman living alone. Why the hell does she drag him into her house? So he can wake up and murder her or what?
Colton was, of course, not a murderer but only there because Reese’s aunt had asked him to look after her chickens before her death and once he wakes up after having been nearly killed his first thought isn’t “Oh my god, some crazy woman tried to murder me and now I’m alone with her”, it’s about… how cute and hot Reese is. Damn, Colton. I know some guys that age are constantly horny but have some common sense, man!
Well, the misunderstanding is soon cleared up then and everything is forgiven but this whole situation is super inauthentic and forced and no fun to read. And stuff like that happens a lot in this book. The plot has to move on somehow so Burrow makes Reese and Colton do stuff and think stuff and say stuff, no matter if it makes sense for them to do so or not – and more often than not it does not make any sense.
I didn’t like the characters a lot either. Reese was okay but her constant cynicism and making light of scary situations ruined the atmosphere for me. There’s nothing like some flippant comments to ruin a creepy moment, I tell you. Colton was horrible. He read like Burrow was relying on one too many stereotype about men when she wrote his chapters and there was something uncomfortably masculine about him. Like… not in the authentic boy-next-door who played football at school kind of way. In the stilted, constructed “this is a MAN!” kind of way that happens when authors have no idea how to write characters of another gender and end up writing a silly caricature of that gender instead. His chapters were uncomfortable to read because his whole character felt really artificial and bland to me.
HERE THEY DESCRIBE EVERY SINGLE THING
My last point is Burrow’s writing. “Here They Lie” is seriously overwritten and I think it could have well used another round of thorough editing. There are so many unnecessary descriptions, internal monologues and dragged out scenes it hurt my actual brain. For instance when Reese first enters the house, she gets a bit of a scare. Instead of building up atmosphere and letting me feel how scary the house is, Burrow inserted paragraph upon paragraph about Reese’s background into this scene. “Oh, a scary noise! Hey, did you know I’m from New Orleans and I study anthropology and have I told you about what my family does for a living…” On and on it went, sucking the tension right out of that scene. That happened a lot. This is something most writers get rid of whilst editing. The first draft is for just writing the story down. Editing is for crossing out all these unnecessary descriptions and internal monologues.
Hey, I should know, I do this too. My first drafts are full of detailed descriptions of places. But then I edit them and I cross out everything the reader doesn’t absolutely need to know. Using descriptions to build atmosphere is fine. Tell me about that old furniture! Tell me about that broken porch and the overgrown garden! But safe some for later, aye? I don’t need to know what colour the wallpaper in the living room is, at least not right away. If you want to tell me, tell me later on. We’ve got 280 pages ahead of us, you don’t have to squeeze every detail in right in the beginning when the reader wants to know other stuff, for example: What the hell was that scary noise and is Reese going to investigate? I love beautifully written descriptions but they can get so frustrating when there’s just too many of them! (Free writing advice, sponsored by The Bookabelles, there you go, guys!)
HERE THE WRITING FEELS LIKE IT SEEMS TO BE STILTED
Yeah. I wasn’t a fan of the writing. It’s really stilted and unnecessarily complicated and at the same time Burrow tries too hard to make both Reese and Colton sound young and cool. It reads contrived and it really got on my nerves. Reese is always joking, always a bit cynical. This kind of thing makes for a really good first person narrative when done right but with Reese I felt constantly griped at, like she hated me and didn’t want to tell me what happened at all. Just look at this sentence for instance. It’s from one of the first pages and it illustrates all my points about the writing:
This is unnecessarily purple and stilted. Most of the sentences are just too long with too many adjectives tossed in. “Silvery” is included twice in this short paragraph, dammit! Everything “seems to be” doing something to Reese. Things don’t happen, they seem to happen and they feel like they’re happening. Reading this for more than two chapters seriously gave me a headache. So complicated for no reason at all! What’s wrong with just letting stuff happen? We know the trees aren’t really trying to grab Reese but to her that’s what it’s like in that moment so what’s wrong with “while the woods tried to grab my truck”?
Maybe that’s just me but making every sentence as complicated and long as possible is really frustrating. It takes the flow right out of the story and sometimes it forces you to read sentences twice because they’re so jumbled you didn’t get their meaning the first time round.
There’s also a typical Reese joke in that paragraph. Again, maybe that’s just me, but for me stuff like this totally kills any suspense and atmosphere dead instantly. “Toss in some creepy organ music, and I was in the opening scene of a horror movie”, haha, heehee, yes. Exactly what you would think or say when you’re confused and slightly scared, right?
I kept feeling like Burrow didn’t really know how to describe emotions at all or when which emotion or a joke would be funny and appropriate and when it would just kill any scary atmosphere there was. When I finally got to put the book down I was so irritated by the writing that I was in an actual bad mood because I’d had so many adjectives and complicated sentence structures thrown at me.
“Here They Lie” just didn’t deliver. It’s an interesting concept but not very well executed. About half of the book is filler, characters act weird, inconsistent and make stupid decisions all the time, the writing is frankly nerve grating because it reads so contrived, I didn’t like Colton and the author relied way too heavily on horror tropes without giving them any kind of twist to make them work.
I’m always really sorry for disliking a book this much because I know how much work it takes to write a novel but I do think I should be honest and “Here They Lie” was probably my biggest flop in a long time. I won’t be reading the sequel, titled “A Cautionary Tale”, and I won’t read anything else by Burrow. I’m glad she has a lot of fans though, I’m happy that they enjoy her books so much. If there’s nothing in this review that makes you recoil in horror and you think “Here They Lie” sounds interesting, please give it a try and form your own opinion on it. Let me know how you liked it!
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