House of Ash by Hope Cook
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Summary provided by the publisher:
After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.
But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.
For whatever reason, I hate the word ‘copse’. There’s no real reason why I should hate word, but I do, so that didn’t help when reading a book that keeps identifying a ‘copse’ of trees as the place where strange things begin to happen to one of our MCs, Curtis. The word just kept being used, and I kept cringing whenever it’d pop up on the page. I really do not like the word copse.
Why don’t I move on from that…
House of Ash is one of those books that you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard the story before, maybe not in this exact sense, but in some form or other. For instance, the idea of a boy and girl, both on opposite sides of time, who happen to see each other in some way (a mirror, in this book), fall for each other, and feel the need to save one or the other. Then, there’s the very real potential that one may be actually suffering from a mental illness, imagining things, because a parent of said one may be suffering themselves. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an evil house? A house that listens, and must be stopped at all costs?
Yup, same ol’, same ol’.
Even though the author’s bio says she has drawn from her personal experience with mental illness, I don’t feel like this book was meant to really address what mental illness really does to people. If it was, then I didn’t quite get that from this book. Curtis’ father is mentally ill, and his illness seems to only exist to explain why Curtis might be suddenly hearing things like voices, and to possibly explain why his home life is so rough, leading to his having some extreme behavior in a variety of circumstances in this book. Yeah, so if you’re looking to really read up on mental illness, this is not the book for that.
Moving on from the very real problems that mental illness can invoke, we should now talk about the supernatural aspect of this book. The girl in the mirror. Is she real, or is she a figment of Curtis’ imagination? This is where the supernatural part comes into play. Curtis is seeing the image of a girl who was very real, but how? Especially since we know that the girl, Mila, perished in 1894 in a fire that descimated a very large estate to the ground, along with anyone else who may have been in the home. So we have a ghosty mirror, along with a ghosty girl, and therefore we have ghosty-ness, though it all plays out to be on the bland side. I mean, Mila’s step-father is supposed to be a large reason behind why things ended up the way they did when it comes to her death and the fire, but honestly, he is such an absent villain. It’s like he appears at times, goes BOO!, then heads off to wait till the next time he’ll come around again to instill some sort of fear into Mila. His villainy is pretty boring, and the explanation for why he does the things he does is also pretty boring.
I feel like I should also mention the characters in regards to what I thought of them in general. Starting with Curtis, I’ll say that he is a very angry person, as well as someone who’s very torn as to address issues with others. He doesn’t want to confide in his best friend, and being that there’s no one else for him to do so to, he’s pretty much screwed. So, yeah, this just leads to him being angry all the time. He finds some drive in his research of Mila and the burned down estate of Gravenhearst, but even then, he’s mediocre at research, so his best friend has to help him, but still, he’d rather not confide in the guy, humph. Now that I’ve given you a sort of condensed description of him, I’ll say that I find Curtis to be boring/annoying. Seriously, one day he happens to come across a clearing of strange trees, hears weird voices, and that’s how this book comes about. Not sure if there was absolutely no chance that he wouldn’t have come upon said clearing anytime before in his life, but now is the time for everything to happen, it would seem. Okay, so even if I were to accept that and move on, I still can’t stand Curtis’ personality in general. He just seemed kind of douchey to me, and I’m not a fan of such people.
Now for Mila. Mila’s account begins with her journey/arrival to Gravenhearst, originally with her mother and sister, as well. Yadda, yadda, her mom disappears, then her sister, and now Mila is left to figure out what her step-father, and the evil house, wants from her. Mila isn’t awful, and I found her to be more tolerable than her male counterpart, but that doesn’t really mean anything if you dislike the guy so much, so I’ll leave it at that.
Finally, when it comes to the way this book ended?? It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t really that entertaining. There are no cliffhangers, so the end is the end, but maybe this book could have benefited from a horror movie-style ending? Shrug, we’ll never know.
I gave this book two stars because as much as I didn’t really care for it, I felt it was readable, and it didn’t take me too long to read, so that’s definitely a plus in my book. Being that I didn’t really care for this book, I won’t be personally recommending it.
Thank you to Amulet Books, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.
View all my reviews