Book Review – The Secret of Dartwood Manor by N.A. Triptow
Witches. Ghosts. An ancient secret. Enter a world of myth and magic through this contemporary fantasy reimagining of Jane Austen’s beloved classic, Sense and Sensibility.
The small New England town of Tarryville, Maine is steeped in history, having been settled by the Dartwood and Farris families who fled Salem during the witch trials. The Dartwood sisters, Eden, Mariah, and Melissa, unexpectedly return home after their parents are found murdered. Upon their arrival, the girls are plagued by dreams in which dark spectral beings haunt them. When the hellish creatures seem to be more than just nightmares, another mystery begins to unravel as they discover that the circumstances around the murder of their parents may be far more menacing than they appear. Frantic for answers, they must untangle the mystery of their parents’ murders and reconstruct the pieces of an ancient secret. With the help of the young assistant curator of their family museum, Baden Correia, and an estranged friend from their past, Evan Farris, the orphaned Dartwood sisters must uncover the truth before the darkness haunting their family descends upon them as well.
So the first thing that I want to make known before I dive into my review of this book is that it is a retelling of Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility and I have never read the original story.
When I saw this book become available I knew I had to read it. The cover drew me in initially as there was something otherworldly, old fashioned and magical about it. Reading the blurb only made me sure that this was exactly my kind of book.
This is the story of three Dartwood sisters who are dragged home to their family estate from school/college after their parents are brutally, mysteriously murdered.
When they arrive at their family home, nothing makes any sense and the girls have to try to piece together what happened whilst working through their grief before eventually solving the mystery and figuring out who they are.
I really loved the way that magic was weaved into this contemporary story. Much of the history behind magic in the world is discovered through research at the family museum and it is all really interestingly tied in with myth, legend and stories that we all know.
The three sisters are all very different and intriguing. You have the eldest sister Eden, who is the level-headed and sensible one. She looks out for her younger sisters and is very logical which makes her discovery and quick acceptance of the truth behind her family all the more surprising.
The middle sister Mariah is headstrong, wilful, fiery and often acts first before thinking through the consequences. I really loved her antics through this book even though sometimes I felt like shouting at her for not seeing what was right under her nose.
Lastly there is Melissa who is the youngest sister and the one who seemed to take the truth the hardest of them all.
This story is absolutely chock full of magic, mystery and intrigue and it kept me eagerly turning the pages right until the end. I felt that the story wrapped up well and questions were definitely answered with regards to the family and murder mystery aspects but what left me wanting was the fact that the girls had literally only just figured out their powers and I feel that there is still a lot to see from them before this is over.
The writing was fabulous, atmospheric and easy to follow. For a debut novel I think it was absolutely amazing.
My only real criticism if I must make one is that the characters use shortened nicknames for each other ALL THE TIME and it actually got on my nerves quite a lot for reasons I can’t really explain. I understood the shortening of Melissa to Lissa but Eden to “En” and Mariah to “Riah” just really grated on me and I wished that she would just use their full names.
I do believe that this is to be a trilogy and I think that further books to fully explore the magical aspects of this world as well as time for the sisters to fully learn to harness their powers will be fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next!
Mariah found herself staring at the blank screen of her laptop for longer than she intended after the video call ended, hardly even noticing when the tears began to stain her cheeks. When there were no more tears left to shed, she closed her laptop and placed it on her bedside table.
Rearranging herself on her bed she crawled under the covers and tried to shut her eyes, but the room around her tugged at her mind, summoning all of the haunted bedroom scenes she’d watched a million times in movies. Suddenly thankful for the old-fashioned four-poster bed, she
pulled the curtains tight around her, blocking out the unwanted sights and was finally able to go to sleep.
The stillness of the manor was like a quiet pond just waiting for a fish to upset its equilibrium. The manors beside one another were nearly identical in their architectural design, but now, in the gloom of the night, the Farris manor echoed the dread of the once bright Dartwood manor with such exactness that it seemed as if they were all sleeping in a cemetery.
No one stirred in the house, save for the shadows that danced through the windows in the moonlight. The stillness was disturbed, however, as one by one the shadows in the three Dartwood girls’ rooms began to move in purposeful strides. The moonlight no longer directed them in a nightly waltz as they made their way toward the girls.
The shadows, each a ghostly orb of darkness, started their trek from different locations in the rooms. In Eden’s room the mist trickled in from the window, while in Mariah’s it inched between the moth-eaten holes in the cloth ceiling of the four-poster bed, and in Melissa’s it crept in from under the bed itself. Slowly, the haze advanced upon each girl, their forms growing ever more into the silhouette of a person as they neared them. Hovering now only a foot or two above the girls, in unison, as if directed by the moon once more, an ethereal hand reached for each girl,
fingers looking more like claws than anything else. A high pitched and yet deep hiss of sound escaped what should have been lips on the silhouettes, darkness protruding and encircling itself around the sleeping forms of the girls below them. Then, without warning, all three silhouettes shrieked a cry of disappointment, an unearthly shrill.
The sound woke each girl as they came to the terrible realization that what had been haunting them in their nightmares was in reality hovering just above them as they slept. Gasping, the silhouettes dissipated into nothing so quickly that none of the girls were quite certain of what
they had seen. Nonetheless, each rose out of their beds with such haste that they all opened their doors at the same moment, only to be greeted by the horror-struck faces of their siblings.
N. A. Triptow graduated from The University of Utah with a Bachelor of Arts in English Teaching with minors in History Teaching, Theatre, and British Studies. She teaches high school English and Film Studies. She is
currently pursuing a Master of Science in Strategic Communication and
Advertising from Purdue University. In her free time, you can find her reading, watching and analyzing movies and television shows, attending the theatre, going on walks or hikes, and playing board or video games with family and friends. She lives in Utah.