Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

53152636. sx318 sy475 Title: Mexican Gothic
Series: n/a
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Source/Format: Purchased; Hardcover
More Details: Historical Fiction; Gothic Horror; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; June 30, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER; An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets... 
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find - her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
Mexican Gothic is one of my most anticipated book releases of 2020. After reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, my expectations for it were pretty high. Mexican Gothic is an unsettling story about a socialite who goes to save her cousin from what is at first thought to simply be a bad marriage. With the isolated and mist-shrouded setting, the horror steadily built up as the story unfolded. Moreno-Garcia’s writing was positively atmospheric, and there was a lot I liked about Mexican Gothic.

The first part of the book was spent laying the groundwork for the rest of the story. The tone of it shifted once Noemi traveled to High Place, which was a somewhat strange and brooding house on top of a hill. There were plenty of descriptions about it and its history, as well as the people who lived in it. Right away, I enjoyed Noemi’s perspective. Her character was refreshing, and her attitude was one of defiance throughout much of the story. She enjoyed spending her time on music, parties, and dates among other things—so she preferred fun and vibrant things. It was in stark contrast to the dreary silence and danger of High Place. Virgil Doyle, Catalina’s husband, seemed fine on paper. So did the house. However High Place was a house ruled by rules and secrets, and the Doyle family seemed beholden to its strict traditions. There were few characters to like from High Place, and they were among some of the most unsettling parts of Mexican Gothic.

Overall, I liked the story. It was a little slow in the beginning, but I think it was necessary to really set up the atmosphere that would come into play later on. I did like the more mysterious parts of the story. Everything seemed to have some kind of hidden meaning, so nothing was quite as it seemed and I mean that quite literally. The story is best described as a puzzle. All the pieces were there, it just took time to put it all together. Along with what I liked about the book, I do have to talk about some of the other elements in the story. Mexican Gothic is very dark. The horror outweighed any romantic notions that Noemi and Catalina might have had, and that’s pretty much conveyed on page. What romance there was seemed second to the rest of the story; although, I did like the way it was gradually developed. There was also no shortage of family drama and distorted relationships here, and the threat of harm to Noemi was near constant. It also featured a lot of gothic horror conventions in the same vein as Crimson Peak, with body horror imagery that had a similar gross-out factor to some parts of Dracula and Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion.

Mexican Gothic was the kind of story with a gradual build toward the end. What made it scary was the kind of close-quarters, claustrophobic, feeling it evoked. Needless to say, I will definitely read more work by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

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