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Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore) Paperback – September 15, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
The classic Southern gothic gets an edgy modern makeover in Priest's debut novel about a young woman's investigation into the truth of her origins. What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanitarium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled swamp in Florida, and back in time to the Civil War, when the taint in her family bloodline sets in motion events building only now to a supernatural crescendo. Priest adds little new to the gothic canon, but makes neo-goth chick Eden spunky enough to deal with a variety of cliché menaces—a scheming family matriarch, a brooding Poe-esque mansion and a genealogy greatly confused with inbreeding—that would have sent the genre's traditional wilting violets into hysterics. Eden is a heroine for the aging Buffy crowd, and her adventures will play best to postadolescent horror fans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In this new edition of a novel that was 100 pages shorter in its original, regional-publisher printing in 2003, Priest sinks deep into the tale of a Tennessee orphan who draws upon grit worthy of Scarlett O'Hara to extract an evil canker from her Spanish moss-hung family tree. Visitations by spirits spur Eden, who has grown up seeing ghosts, to pursue dangerous genealogical research. Also fueling her investigations are attempts on her life by a maniacal cousin, whose plots have the blessing of a crusty old matriarch resentful of Eden's slave--descended branch of the family. This southern-gothic closet is fairly overflowing with skeletons, from a polygamist wife murderer to a coven of voodoo priests. It all screeches to a somewhat unsatisfying halt after a cinematic climax, but there's mystical, sultry appeal in the thick Chattanooga atmosphere and strong characterizations (Eden's tongue is as sharp as the heels of her signature black boots), and a mixed-race heroine lends welcome diversity to a genre well populated with porcelain-complected heroines. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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And if the book is supposed to be horror, I want the spookiness to creep up on me, to lull me into a false sense of security, thinking, "oh, this book couldn't possibly keep me up tonight," only to linger in my thoughts later, glancing nervously at the bedroom mirror as I try to doze off.
I love reading Priest's blog, and I was delighted to find that this book meets all of my exacting criteria. I enjoy reading, but the inner critic always finds something to pick on. Here, my only regret was that I devoured the book much too quickly. Quick as I sped through it, though, the smell of swamp, and the whispering of ghostly presences have clung to me. There's a lot to think about in this book; you're not done with it after you've read the last page.
Priest is good at building suspense and creating spooky scenes, and Eden is memorable character who fights her own battles. Most of the typical Southern Gothic elements are handled very well, including the natural environment, a decaying mansion, an abandoned asylum, half-crazy relatives, and paranormal happenings. The plot is a bit too murky and obviously contrived in spots and the characters, other than Eden and her aunt, drawn a little too sketchily to be really interesting. The ending is a little weak. Still, this is a spooky read. If you like intrepid heroines, you should enjoy it.