Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
Divided into seven sections, this book tells the story of two lovers through seven (a number sacred to pagan Teutonic peoples; there were seven earths, including Asgard and Midgard, or Middle-earth) lives in which they attempt to find one another, connected in each life, until they meet again in let's call it the right order. This revelation comes at the very end of the novel, and while it's clever, and has more weight to it than just a sort of GOTHCHA feel, it's one of those stories that seems smarter, and more interesting in retrospect, knowing what you know by the end of the book, though the novelty of trying to figure it out is gone and would probably detract from a second-read experience.
The first section reads as deliciously frightening, with a definite Wicker Man vibe to it, up until its cliffhanger ending. I was however a bit confused by the end of the book as to why it had to take place in the future at all. Just to excuse the fact that his last name is Seven? Something more clever could have been thought of. Sixty or so years into the future and he's still talking about apps and whatnot? Technology moves much faster than that! That is my only complaint however; it was certainly my favorite part of the book, and I would have enjoyed a novel of this alone.
But it does move on, and reincarnation isn't the only supernatural event. Each section smartly borrows the attitudes and atmosphere of the time to weave each star-crossed story, from a Victorian ghost story, in which the ghost is revealed to be the narrator, to vikings with a vampyr problem. The little dragon orchid makes at least a small appearance in each story, but is never more important as it is at first, and I liked that! The feeling that that was going to be what it was all about, and it turns out to be something of a red herring with a bit of a punch at the end, because of its general unimportance. Did it allow for all the paranormal activity on the island? Did it encourage it? Who knows, and I didn't mind that.
In the afterward, the author reveals that the painting Midvinterblot by Carl Larrson was a large inspiration, and one sees why, by the end, with the final (almost) chapter recreating the scene depicted in the painting, and a (fictional) artist Erik Carlson creating the painting around the turn of the 20th century.
So what didn't I like? The very ending sort of soured me, if I'm going to be honest. There's a shorter than I would have liked epilogue that returns to Eric Seven and Merle's story. They escape sacrifice briefly, are recaptured and killed alongside one another. After centuries of trying to find one another. And we're told this is okay, because they are now the idea of love, or love itself, instead of just two people in love, and the impetus for their reincarnation was to find one another as lovers and be together in the afterlife (something denied to the Victorian lesbians Merle and Erica, though they found one another as lovers). It's done because, as the other chapters reveal, the dracula orchid makes the inhabitants of the island sterile. The tragedy that the residents don't know that is heavy; they mean to sacrifice Eric to return their fertility, when they rely so heavily on the orchid for so many thing.
Unpleasant. I would have even almost preferred that it just end without ever returning to the cliffhanger of the first section. Definitely a book that will stay with me, very clever, very interesting and intelligent, but just not as well-drawn as it could be, and with a nasty sort of surprise of an ending. Would still recommend it with enthusiasm.