(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The day Anne Tinning turns seventeen, birds fall from the sky. But that’s hardly the most upsetting news. She’s being dismissed from the home she’s served at since she was a child, and shipped off to become the newly hired parlor maid for a place she’s never heard of. And when she sees the run-down, isolated house, she instantly knows why:
There’s something wrong with Rosewood Manor.
Staffed with only three other servants, all gripped by icy silence and inexplicable bruises, and inhabited by a young master who is as cold as the place itself, the house is shrouded in neglect and thick with fear. Her questions are met with hushed whispers, and she soon finds herself alone in the empty halls, left to tidy and clean rooms no one visits.
As the feeling of being watched grows, she begins to realize there is something else in the house with them–some creature that stalks the frozen halls and claws at her door. A creature that seems intent on harming her.
When a fire leaves Anne trapped in the manor with its Master, she finally demands to know why. But as she forces the truth about what haunts the grounds from Lord Grey, she learns secrets she isn’t prepared for. The creature is very real, and she’s the only one who can help him stop it.
Now, Anne must either risk her life for the young man she’s grown to admire, or abandon her post while she still can.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
One of the things that stood out for me from the beginning in The Rose Master was the writing. Valentina Cano has a beautiful descriptive writing style that just sucks you into the world of her story. Of course it’s not as verbose as the writing style of the time, but it is different enough from most styles that you get a sort of authentic “gothic mystery novel” feel. Which is probably what she was going for, considering the plot and the subject matter.
The characters ring true both to the modern reader as well as to the times they live in. Anne is a servant at the age of seventeen and when she’s sent away to Rosewood Manor she’s on her own for the first time in her life. So you can imagine her terror when it seems like there’s something funny going on at the manor, what with the odd noises, mysterious bruises on the staff members and an absentee Lord. One of the things that I admired so much about the book is that Anne is brave and resourceful without resulting to the modern ‘kick-butt action girl’ trope that would ruin the authentic Gothic feel. She’s not helpless, but she is bound by her upbringing and the expectations of the times. I don’t want to give much away but when she finally does meet our mysterious Lord Grey, she definitely does grow out of that enforced timidity.
The plot is not fast by most modern standards but it is fascinating. Valentina Cano sucks you into her world with her writing and she is a master of suspense. Even if you’re like me and could pretty much predict the next events, you just had to keep reading to see how they would unfold. She creates an air of mystery, suspense and more than a little horror throughout the novel that I really admire her for sustaining. Sure, there are some happy parts between characters, but there’s always that ominous other lurking about on the sidelines.
Even if you’re not a huge Gothic novel fan, I can’t recommend The Rose Master enough. It is just so beautifully written and Valentina Cano does a wonderful job keeping her readers in suspense. The characters are so well fleshed out, both major and minor, that you can’t help but fall in love with them. I particularly liked Anne; she’s a very memorable main character. Basically? Just go and buy this book. I think you’ll love it as much as I did.
I give this book 5/5 stars.