Leta has heard the rumours about Rowan Sylvanan, the monster who drowned his entire family as a boy. But the dangerous young lord of Lakesedge might be the only one who can help her brother Arien, afflicted by a dark and violent magic that threatens to overtake him.
But upon entering the grounds of Lakesedge, with its empty manor and mysterious black lake, Leta soon realises all is not what it appears. It seems that it may be Rowan who needs their help, and that the monster might not be so monstrous after all.
Atmospheric, exciting, and with a plot that keeps you glued to the page, series opener Lakesedge is the debut novel from Lyndall Clipstone. Described as a lush gothic fantasy, it promises feisty heroines, brooding Byronic anti-heroes, and mood lighting a-plenty. It’s as angsty as you might expect from a YA romance too, but don’t let that put you off – Clipstone knows her way around the genre, and this one hits all the right spots.
The story flows well, and the magical and religious systems in place in Clipstone’s world are well explained and explored. The writing as a whole is impressive too, with detailed and immersive prose throughout.
Clipstone also wisely keeps her cast of characters to a minimum, leaving plenty of room for them to change and grow with the story. And as Rowan, alchemist Clover, and den mother Florence gradually morph into Leta and Arien’s family, the emotional stakes raise with every page turn.
The relationship between Leta and Rowan is obviously front and centre, and it absolutely delivers. Filled with delicious, well-executed tropes, it’s all wonderfully balanced by the gentle, teasing humour courtesy of Clover; who always seems to be walking past right after a particularly tense/dramatic/hot (delete as applicable) moment between the two lovebirds.
While I’m of the personal belief that a spooky castle and a moody lead does not necessarily a gothic novel make, Lakesedge absolutely ticks all the aesthetic boxes when it comes to the genre. The locations are suitably haunting, and there’s enough scenes of Leta running through the grounds of Lakesedge in bare feet and a swooshy gown to keep even me happy.
A little bit Labyrinth, a little bit Crimson Peak, and a little bit Beauty & the Beast, there’s a lot to love about Lakesedge. The wait for sequel Forestfall won’t be easy.
Lyndall Clipstone’s Lakesedge is out now, available through Pan Macmillan.