Published by Tor on September 17, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romantic, Young Adult
Reviewed by: Julia
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex.
A dark, romantic fantasy set against the backdrop of San Francisco devastated by the Great Quake
It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.
Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.
It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again.
And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.
The beauty of DELIA'S SHADOW starts at the cover for me; haunting, rich, and mysterious. The concept of a haunting in history, pairing paranormal themes with the grace and politeness turn of the century San Francisco was an irresistible lure.
But for a story that promises so much of the gothic tradition, I found these shadows to be thin. I struggled to find an emotional connection with Delia. Even the nature of her haunting is so ubiquitous, so evenly accepted by those around her, that it becomes simple mechanics rather than a dramatic twist. I expected Delia to have a singular ability, but rather, Moyer's writes a world where the veil between the living and the dead is quite thin, and several characters have their own interactions with ghosts before too long.
That initial change in perspective (from "singular ghost whisperer" to "everyone seems on board with ghosts"), made me no less interested in the story, but the dry delivery and shallow descriptions made the story skim along without pulling me deeper. DELIA'S SHADOW is a mystery without drama, a romance without mystery, and a ghost story with very little haunting. Other than the over the top violence implied for the central boogeyman, his ghostly victims offer very little pathos. I waited for Shadow's dream sequences to unfold, I waited for Delia to unbend enough to explore the phenomena haunting her, and all the while Gabe and Sophie and Jack clicked through the story like a clockwork cast. Part of this emotional distance is due to the time period, and fans of quiet restraint will enjoy the social mechanics of this book, but Moyer's writing style doesn't promise any deeper emotions behind the social facade.
Despite those issues, DELIA'S SHADOW is a ghost story worth a read for some. Those who like period drama may enjoy this historical mystery, with shadowy victims walking amongst the living as a killer terrorizes London. As someone who reads a lot of mysteries, period fiction, and paranormals, DELIA'S SHADOW promised much more than it delivered.More Reviews:
- Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke