Author: Gillian Shields
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1 July 2010
Welcome to Wyldcliffe, the place that haunts my present, my past, and my future.
Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn from her home near the sea to become the newest scholarship student, strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave her drowning in loneliness.
Evie’s only lifeline is Sebastian, a mysterious and attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie’s feelings for Sebastian blaze with each secret meeting, she begins to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl—a girl who is so eerily like Evie she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she cannot control. As the extraordinary, elemental forces of Wyldcliffe rise up like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate.
Gillian Shields does state that she is inspired by the Bronte’s; if I wasn’t already aware of this I would have made the connection due to the parallels placed through the narrative; the description of the rugged landscape akin to Wuthering Heights and the ingenious use of naming Sebastians family home Fairfax Hall brings to mind Mrs Fairfax in Jane Eyre. Even the relationship between Evie and Sebastian has parallels to Jane and Mr Rochester. I even visualised shades of Sleepy Hollow with the description of the horseman.
Written in first person narrative from Evie’s perspective. At 16 she has a wonderfully snarky voice accompanied by a hot temper that she valiantly controls. Raised by her Grandmother, her father is in the forces and stationed abroad, her mother died when she was a child. Following her Grandmothers stroke Evie is ‘lucky’ enough to be granted a scholarship to Wyldcliffe, a rare occurrence to gain a scholarship. This is where one mystery begins – what are Evie’s families past connections to Wyldcliffe?
Chapters are interspersed with journal entries by Agnes, written in italics to visually differentiate between the 2 story-lines. The journal entries piece together the mysteries of the past while adding depth to the present action/mystery/interactions. The weaving of the past together with the present produce a rich tapestry of diegesis (I like the word so I am using it [ : D ])
Abounding Gothic imagery is reinforced with the use of the Gothic convention of nesting parallel plots within the prose. Appropriate biblical references add deeper meaning to the narrative. Completely unexpected twists within the story braid the threads of the plot together in a tantalising fashion. Teasers are interspersed into the narrative, ideas are hinted at leaving the imagination to place the information given into the correct place; not altogether successfully in my case.
The high school cliques were shown in all their ‘glory’ comparable to the inner workings of the coven. The resemblance between the dynamics of the two groups was astounding. All interactions were believable and easy to relate to. Although Evie’s immediate strong emotions for Sebastian seemed rather exaggerated, they could be explained by the bloodline to a certain extent.
Evie’s personal journey did seem a bit drawn out due to her lack of belief in herself, when it eventually takes place it seems like a vast change in a short space of time. What I think I am trying to say is; most of the book deals with the necessary back story both in the past and the present leaving little room for the actual action in the present; something I think will be rectified in the next book.
Ultimately a fascinating modern Gothic tale.