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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, September 2014 - I have a feeling I’m going to be a fan of Chrysler Szarlan for a long time The Hawley Book of the Dead grabbed hold of me within the first few pages, as it started - quite literally - with a bang. Reve Dyer and her daughters are forced to disappear from their Las Vegas home by the heart-wrenching and eerie circumstances surrounding her husband’s murder. They move to Hawley Five Corners - her ancestors’ estate outside of Boston - in an effort to evade the killer that is stalking their family. Cassandra Campbell brings the suspense, romance, and magic of Szarlan’s words to life, creating a world worth re-visiting over and over. —Katie, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

For fans of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and A Discovery of Witches comes a brilliantly imagined debut novel brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic.

Revelation "Reve" Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest - an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend - and first love - is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley - and that she has something he desperately wants.

Brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a brilliantly imagined debut novel from a riveting new voice.

©2014 Chrysler Szarlan (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ellenaeddy
  • 09-12-2014

Nice generational witch tale

Not great literature, but nicely done and fun to boot. The romance isn't icky. The villains are interesting and the reveal is very intriguing. The title has almost nothing to do with the plot, but it doesn't matter to the story.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Andrea
  • 01-10-2014

It sounded like something I could really love.....

I wanted to like this book. I really did. Everything about it sounded awesome. But somehow maybe a third of the way in I started to feel dread about continuing the book. That is never a good sign for me. It has elements of things I absolutely love in a book and yet somehow I was bored. The narrator was excellent. Spellbinding, really. But the actual book seemed like there was no payoff. I just kept waiting for it to get good and that never happened. Some of the explanations about why the Fetch was after them didn't really make sense, why he was being compelled seemed like a weak reason, etc. There seemed to be long stretches of nothing happening, then a snippet of "now this guy appears and this is the reason"....then boring stretch and then " and now this guy is here because of this weak reason"...now boring stretch and on and on and on. I felt like it was 400 hours long and would never end and then suddenly it ended. And not very satisfyingly. I could have cared less at that point. I was just glad it was over.

The characters in the book had such potential to be interesting but in the end I only knew some little bits about each person and didn't really care about any of them.

32 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • April
  • 25-09-2014

Debut Novel extraordinary!

What did you love best about The Hawley Book of the Dead?

I like the style of writing and the story pulls you to be a part of the characters' lives.

What other book might you compare The Hawley Book of the Dead to and why?

I find that The Discovery of Witches, Night Huntress series, Kitty Norville series, and Chicagoland Vampires series do the same by engulfing your mind to live in the book with them.

Which character – as performed by Cassandra Campbell – was your favorite?

I loved Revelation and Jeremy. The great love they share.

Who was the most memorable character of The Hawley Book of the Dead and why?

Revelation, because she is the protagonist and she is a strong loving person. I like the growth she has made in one story.

Any additional comments?

I can't wait until the next installment. Chrysler, don't keep us waiting too long! I adore your book. The narrator is awesome. I love to hear a narrator with great accents and characterizations.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • RueRue
  • 16-11-2015

Not so magical

This story is all over the place, and none of the plot elements came together. The "magic" wasn't all that magical. Disappointing.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Janice
  • 10-11-2015

Uneven

I enjoy stories with elements of magical realism, and I like mystery stories. Handled properly I think the two can inhabit the same story. But it had uneven results in this story. The early part of the story sets the magical tone reviewing the gifts that the women of the Dyer family have and hinting at a creepy “fetch” that is stalking them for as yet unknown reasons. The magical characters were intriguing. There are vanishings, visions, and of course The Book. I really liked the atmosphere that was being set up.

Then we are suddenly plunged into a completely unexpected old murder mystery linked to old conspiracy theories. At that point even those with known magical gifts seem to doubt or deny their own powers and rely on the cops to figure things out and protect them. It was a huge disconnect that took way too long to connect the dots. I got very impatient with the women/girls who kept secrets from each other when solidarity would be their strength. I would have expected a family of supernaturals to band their powers together to conquer their nemesis, but no – they cling to silence “because I thought it would be the best thing to do”.

The final act took the story up a notch – a big notch - because Reve finally pulled up her big girl britches and took things into her own hands to stop the bad guy. And the rest of the family climbed on board to do their part. The satisfying ending and the fine narration allows me to give a somewhat grudging 4 star overall, but have to say that the shortcomings of the writing keeps the story at a 3. There are hints that there may be a sequel coming since one very large string was left dangling. I’m not sure if I’ll bite again.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Leslie
  • 22-10-2014

Almost 4 stars

I hesitated about giving this a 3 star or a 4 star review. It is an engaging story and definitely held my interest. I thought her descriptions of her children and animals to have rich details that brought them to life. I've held back the 4th star because even though this is an enjoyable story, I thought the storyline and plot development could have been a little stronger. It sometimes meanders and is a bit weak on developing a believable magical world. Even in fantasy, it seems to me there should be "rules" about the magic in it. This kind of seemed to meander around and pull ideas out at random.

Still, for an entertaining story it's worth a listen.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Katherine Schmidt
  • 15-10-2014

It grabbed me from the start

This is not my usual genre. I just could not decide on what to listen to next, and I chose this one. After I did I contacted Audible to see if they still had the return policy. I was so sure I had made a mistake. Oh no, I did not make a mistake. This book grabbed me from the beginning, and I could not listen/read fast enough. The plot was believable, as were the characters, and it was just a joy. The only thing that makes me unhappy is that I have finished it.

What a wonderful surprise.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cole
  • 26-09-2016

Anticlimactic

Way too slow for what it built up to. If you're going to have a storyline filled with so much descriptive detail, you best be going somewhere that justifies all that buildup. Don't get me wrong, it's a good read, just not my fancy.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • TC53
  • 25-09-2014

Outstanding Writing and Performance

What made the experience of listening to The Hawley Book of the Dead the most enjoyable?

The narrator was very good with both male and female voices. The story was not predictable, and flowed smoothly, kept me interested all the way through. A very good book.

Have you listened to any of Cassandra Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

She is a very good narrator! Yes, I've listened to other performances by her. She always does a great job.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Joe Kraus
  • 17-03-2016

American. And Gothic.

Any additional comments?

It isn’t easy to write the gothic in an American context. We don’t generally have a deep enough history – or a deep enough appreciation of the history we do have – to weave that haunted feeling throughout a substantial story.

My favorite part about this book is that it succeeds in doing just that. It does evoke a sense of history as deep and troubled. Whether it’s the opening scenes in a Las Vegas theater where Houdini and scores of forgotten magicians worked their art or later in the emptied New England small town of our protagonist’s ancestors, you get the sense that people have lived in the spaces that Szarlan explores.

As a consequence, much of what we learn about the deep magic of the world comes to us haphazardly. I imagine that this would be distasteful to Orson Scott Card and other proponents of a well-ordered “world-building” philosophy in fantasy writing. This book seems haphazard, introducing key points later than you’d expect and reconfiguring its back story as it goes. There does seem to be a sloppiness to it all, but I can generally forgive it for the consistent way it evokes its intriguing gothic tone.

I’m a little less forgiving of some of the ways it walls off Revelation’s emotional world. She is understandably devastated by the death of her husband (not a spoiler since it comes in the first sentence) but then she’ll go long chapters without seeming to think of him. Or, to take a [SPOILER ALERT] later example, she acquires a sword that clearly has magical implications, and then she just forgets about it until she has a convenient need for it.

So, this one could have used some tightening up in its plot and in the consistency of its characters. For its capacity to get across a distinctly American type of hauntedness, though, it’s a real and pleasurable success. I’ve been on a roll with un- or semi-satisfying books, and this one brought back some of the magic I’d been missing out of reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful