Epeolatry Book Review: Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
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Title: Looking Glass Sound
Author: Catriona Ward
Publisher: Viper Books
Release date: 8th August, 2023
Synopsis: In a cottage overlooking the windswept Maine coast, Wilder Harlow has begun the last book he will ever write.
It is the story about the sun-drenched summer days of his youth in Whistler Bay, and the blood-stained path of the killer that stalked his small vacation town. About the terrible secret he and his companions, Nat and Harper, discovered entombed in the coves off the bay. And how the pact they swore that day echoed down the decades, forever shaping their lives.
But the more Wilder writes, the less he trusts himself and his memory. He starts to see things that can’t be real – notes hidden in the cabin, from an old friend now dead; a woman with dark hair drowning in the icy waters below, calling for help; entire chapters he doesn’t recall typing, appearing overnight. Who, or what, is haunting Wilder?
No longer able to trust his own eyes, Wilder begins to fear that this will not only be his last book, but the last thing he ever does.
You may have heard of Catriona Ward before. Endorsed by Stephen King, her horror novels have won the British Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. For me, her work has been on my reading list for a long time, and when I booked my ticket for the 2023 Edge-Lit fest, I found out she was attending. Looking Glass Sound grabbed my interest, and I read it as a library book. No, ‘read’ isn’t right. It was more like I absorbed it. Or the book absorbed me.
Looking Glass Sound focuses mainly on Wilder Harlow. He writes about one summer when his family went to his deceased uncle’s home, intending to set it up for sale, and while exploring Whistler’s Bay, Wilder becomes friends with Nat and Harper. He writes about their many adventures, the dangers of Whistler’s Bay and the scary tale of The Dagger Man, who’s no myth or folktale, but real. The bay’s dark history of The Dagger Man and Wilder’s new friendship will change and haunt his life forever. Scarred from the events at Whistler’s Bay, Wilder finds comfort in writing about it. Until his manuscript is stolen, and published by his friend Sky without his consent. Years later, Wilder pursues writing his story once again, but with the aim of exacting revenge.
As you may have gathered, Looking Glass Sound has a complex plot, and it can be hard describing what it’s about without giving too much away, but its complexity is compelling. There are no proper chapters, and the story switches narrators too, telling their side of the tale. It left me with a headache, a satisfying reward for finishing my reading journey, and I can assure you, reader, that it is worth the journey.
Ward writes beautifully and keeps me gripped in the palm of her fist. The description of Whistler’s Bay is like a dream with an undertone of menace. I love the sea and was fascinated by the bay’s unique whistling stones which echoed throughout the book. Characters, Nat and Harper, seem to only exist at Whistler’s Bay. Nat is a sailor’s son, unafraid of hard work, but is quite mysterious, while Harper is the love interest of both boys. She acts abnormal, is interested in witchcraft, and unafraid to break the rules. Like Wilder, she comes for the summer for a family holiday, and the three of them bond.
Wilder is an interesting fellow who seems to attract tragedy, like his parents’ divorce and his friend’s betrayal, wherever he goes. It’s no wonder that my heart held so much sympathy for him. I wanted him to have a happy ending. His university friend Sky is very self-absorbed and quite creepy with a talent for acting or behaving ‘normal’. All the characters are flawed, and Ward does an amazing job linking the flaws into plot twists which changed my mind towards certain characters on whether I liked them or not.
As the story grows, the thin line between reality and fiction blurs. Trust is broken between the characters, and it breaks between the book and the reader. Looking Glass Sound is like the 2010 film Inception, but as a ‘book inception’. It is not how it appears. It will lie to you. It will haunt you. It will even stop time. You will reread it, even just a page or two, which is an amazing feat. There is a game played by the characters and the book invites you, reader, to join in, but you won’t know the rules until the end. Once you do, you will question everything.
Now, I have my own signed hardback copy of Looking Glass Sound, haunting my bookshelf.
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Corinne Pollard is a new disabled horror writer from West Yorkshire, UK with published works in Sirens Call eZine and Trembling with Fear. With a degree in English Lit and Creative Writing, Corinne has always enjoyed the world of dark fantasy. Aside from writing, Corinne enjoys metal music, visits to graveyards and shopping for books to read.