As soon as I picked up this book and read the blurb on the back cover, I was intrigued. This story was advertised as having many things: mystery, suspense, masterful storytelling, and a gothic setting. Indeed, it delivered all of these factors to an extent, and yet, by the close of the novel, I felt something was lacking.
Let me first say that the language was beautiful from beginning to end. I loved the author’s description of the protagonist’s special relationship with books. Over the course of the novel, the various books and the stories featured within them are developed with such care that they nearly become characters in themselves, even more so at times, than the actual humans. The setting effectively established the haunting mood of the tale. Nearly every scene was heavy with unspoken memories, shadows, and dust.
What didn’t really grab me was the suspense aspect of the novel, or rather, a disappointing absence of it. The story’s pace was relatively slow. Yes, there is mystery as well as a distinct feeling of uneasiness that spans throughout the novel, but suspense? No. That factor only comes into play during the last few pages of the novel, but even that quickly fades after barely sputtering to life. The Thirteenth Tale is a thought-provoking, yet slow read. I kept waiting for something totally unexpected to happen. I kept waiting to be scared out of my wits.
While the ending indeed was surprising, the build-up was hardly gripping, and in the end I was left with a feeling of disappointment for what it could have been. Overall, I would compare the reading of the novel to the process of sitting down to assemble a thousand-piece puzzle on a rainy day. Does it thoroughly occupy your attention? Yes. Is it enjoyable if, at times, rather drawn-out? Yes. Are you happy to be finished with it? Definitely.
📚✔︎ Would recommend for those looking for a gothic unsettling read and beautiful prose.
If I could summarize this book in one word: Disconcerting
Here is an official summary on goodreads for The Thirteenth Tale.
My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★