Fledgling

Lucy Hope

The nights are drawing in and it’s time to escape to the snow-capped forests of Bavaria for a gloriously gothic tale. Full of soaring twists and turns, (and unfurlings and risings) it’s a story like no other I have ever read before, an eclectic mix of steampunk, fantasy and a tiny dash of horror.

It’s 1900. Cassie lives in a house perched on a tall rock, overlooking the Bratvian Forest and the small town of Edenburg. Reached only by a helter-skelter road, blasted out of the rock or a mechanical winch system, designed by her Great, great Grandfather, Walter Engel, the house stretches precariously to the sky. An eccentric inventor, Walter built a steam powered contraption called ‘the zip,’to travel quicker between the numerous floors, as well as an ‘Owlery’ to house his growing collection of stuffed owls and annex to the side to house his book collection.

Cassie lives with her self-obsessed opera singer of a mother, who spends her days floating about in silken gowns and velvet cloaks, singing arias and arpeggios in the lofty music room at the top of the house. Meanwhile, her odd taxidermist father tinkers away in his workshop amongst the Formaldehyde and Borax and Cassie’s ailing grandma whiles away her final days drifting in and out of sleep.

One night, a thunderstorm triggers a series of terrifying events…

“The world becomes dark. Rain pelts at my window. Mother sings. Grandma’s pump sighs.

I hear a tap at my window and press my face against the rain-soaked glass but see nothing. I throw myself back onto my bed and return to my book. I hear the tapping again. I try to ignore it but it comes again. Curiosity finally overwhelms me, and I pad back to the window,planning to open it just an inch.The wind catches it, throwing it open and the storm fills my room.

Something whistles past my ear and lands with a gentle thud on the bed. I slam my window closed, my hands shaking…”

When a tiny cherub is blown into Cassie’s bedroom, her arrival is the start of everything. Enlisting the help of dear friend and cobblers son Raphael, the pair try to discover if the celestial being’s appearance was an accident or part of something more sinister. As dark forces gather around them, Cassie is forced to unearth the secrets of the house and her family’s past, drawing on help from long dead ancestors. But Raphael isn’t quite who she thought he was and the eerie owls are another sign, warning of a malevolent and evil being. Cassie doesn’t know what it all means and she doesn’t have long to find out – grim forces are gathering and she’s right in the path…

I don’t think there’s many things more terrifying than being attacked by flocks of birds and the menacing Sturmfalke make for an unusual and unsettling enemy. I did say there is a tiny dash of horror and a couple of scenes that will have you turning the pages with trepidation.

Fledgling centres around Cassie’s nuclear family of richly imagined characters. A personal highlight were Grandma’s nurses, forces of nature Frau Crunch and Frau Grind (or Crunch and Grind to the townsfolk due to their sheer brute strength and iron exterior) The Fraus are such formidable (and funny!) supporting characters.

I was gripped throughout by the many changes in direction of the story and was made to work hard to think about and question what was going on – I really did not see the final big twist coming at all! Lucy Hope neatly ties up the plot for a satisfying ending if this is to be a standalone novel, however there are a couple of potential threads left dangling which make me wonder if there is to be more books in the series – I really hope there are!

Fledgling will be published by Nosy Crow on the 4th November.

With thanks to Sîan and the team at Nosy Crow for the gorgeous review copy.

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