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Starling House (2023)

by Alix E. Harrow

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,3654714,126 (4.01)40
"Eden, Kentucky, is just another dying, bad-luck town, known only for the legend of E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth-century author and illustrator who wrote The Underland--and disappeared. Before she vanished, Starling House appeared. But everyone agrees that it's best to let the uncanny house--and its last lonely heir, Arthur Starling--go to rot. Opal knows better than to mess with haunted houses or brooding men, but an unexpected job offer might be a chance to get her brother out of Eden. Too quickly, though, Starling House starts to feel dangerously like something she's never had: a home. As sinister forces converge on Starling House, Opal and Arthur are going to have to make a dire choice: to dig up the buried secrets of the past and confront their own fears, or let Eden be taken over by literal nightmares. If Opal wants a home, she'll have to fight for it."--… (more)
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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
I get what was trying to be conveyed, but I found the tone of the book very flat and the characters development did not endear me to them - I found myself without opinion about them and overall found the story more predictable than I anticipated. ( )
  phoebe09 | Jul 15, 2024 |
I kept waiting for it to get better and it just… didn’t. ( )
  ellierey | Jul 7, 2024 |
There is good YA fiction, which works for readers of all ages, and then published Wattpad fantasies full of clichés and annoying teenage characters. Guess where I peg this drivel? Forget Southern Gothic, here we have Gilmore Girls does Beauty and the Beast, with a female protagonist who is supposed to be in her mid-twenties but acts the same age as her sixteen year old brother, and an 'ugly' love interest fighting imaginary monsters in small town America.

Opal's only personality traits are being a povo and taking care of said brother, their flighty rich girl turned tramp of a mother having died in a mysterious car wreck ten years previously. (I have many questions about how a teenage Opal became the guardian of her five year old brother, but presumably we just have to swallow that.) She complains about everything and turns independence into vindictiveness, while claiming that she 'never had the chance to wallow' in self-pity. Arthur, who lurks in Starling House, the wannabe-gothic mansion at the heart of the decaying former mining town, is also a fully fledged adult, but mopes about like a teenage goth. Neither of them are likeable and have zero chemistry, which makes the forced romance that subsumes the whole plot even more painful.

The only possible saving grace, of both the story and the characters, could have been Starling House itself, which 'had begun as stone and mortar had become something more, with ribs for rafters and stone for skin. It has no heart, but it feels; it has no brain, but it dreams.' The building communicates with its inhabitants by opening rooms and doors to people it likes and trapping or expelling foes. Yet like the concept of the book, the house is wasted on a bitter and twisted little martyr, who cossets her brother to the point where he can't fetch his own inhaler during an asthma attack and has no idea about the private education being lined up for him (at sixteen? Isn't that a bit late?), and Truman Capote who is trapped in the big house. If the author had wasted less adjectives and poor similes on Opal, omitted the footnotes (dear god, the footnotes!), and generally tightened up the purple prose, I might have been more involved in the plot and had less time to notice the terrible writing (what the hell kind of adverb is 'cliche-ly'?) And was there any need to have both Opal and Arthur's narratives, especially when we get the joy of Opal's whinging in first person?

Sorry, Starling House, you could have been up there with Manderley, but unfortunately you let the wrong ones in. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jun 28, 2024 |
Captivating and engaging, this book confirms the impression I'd had from reading The Once and Future Witches: Alix E. Harrow's writing is so atmospheric! I still need to catch up on her other books, but I have a feeling I could read anything she writes and enjoy the ride.

Starling House starts from an intriguing premise and delivers an enjoyable and entertaining (if not overly creepy) read rich in gothic vibes. There is an abundance of themes, which maybe could have used a tad more space for fleshing out and nuance, some underdeveloped side plots, and characters that feel way too YA for an adult book, all of which prevented me from fully appreciating this. Also, there is a heavy reliance on non-communication as a plot device, which is a big no-no for me since it's one of my most disliked tropes.

Still, there is a mystery and Big Family Secrets, half-truths mixing with full-on lies and legend, which were very well-constructed and layered, leading to a mostly satisfying resolution and character arcs.

Overall, not a new favourite but a pleasant read nonetheless. I'll need to check out The Ten Thousand Doors of January next! ( )
  bookforthought | Jun 21, 2024 |
4.5.
A sentient house, a pack of beasties and a broody tortured love interest with a sword.
It could have been cut down which would have improved pacing but I still read it in one sitting. I feel like this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not amazing but I enjoyed it ( )
  spiritedstardust | Jun 1, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Harrow has a gift for turning settings into characters, as she does with both the strangely alive Starling House and the working-class town of Eden. Carefully unpacking the institutionalized power dynamics of class and race, Harrow untangles the many mysteries of Starling House, revealing how powerful people and groups will twist the truth until the story suits their purposes.
A spooky story about how hidden truths always come back to haunt you.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Nov 4, 2023)
 
Hugo Award winner Harrow (The Ten Thousand Doors of January) does it again in this tender and triumphant haunted house story....Harrow’s prose cuts straight to the heart as she melds a story of family legacy and historical oppression with a stirring call to speak the truth. Readers will be left chewing on this tale long after the last page, and Starling House will no doubt take its place alongside fiction’s most memorable haunted houses.
added by Lemeritus | editPublisher's Weekly (Jul 14, 2023)
 
Harrow’s captivating prose centers her flawed, cynical protagonists in a haunting plot of horrible actions, fog-hidden beasts, and moving connections between family, friends, and lovers. Fans of Shirley Jackson and Catriona Ward should pick this up. VERDICT Harrow’s (A Mirror Mended) mash-up of twisted fairy tales and Southern gothic fiction is a haunting story of longing, lies, and generational curses.
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alix E. Harrowprimary authorall editionscalculated
Naudus, NatalieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for my brothers
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I dream sometimes about a house I've never seen.
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"Eden, Kentucky, is just another dying, bad-luck town, known only for the legend of E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth-century author and illustrator who wrote The Underland--and disappeared. Before she vanished, Starling House appeared. But everyone agrees that it's best to let the uncanny house--and its last lonely heir, Arthur Starling--go to rot. Opal knows better than to mess with haunted houses or brooding men, but an unexpected job offer might be a chance to get her brother out of Eden. Too quickly, though, Starling House starts to feel dangerously like something she's never had: a home. As sinister forces converge on Starling House, Opal and Arthur are going to have to make a dire choice: to dig up the buried secrets of the past and confront their own fears, or let Eden be taken over by literal nightmares. If Opal wants a home, she'll have to fight for it."--

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