The next in my series of Christmas reviews is the closing book of Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West series, She Who Returns. I’ve read and reviewed the previous installment, She Who Comes Forth and I want to touch on this one, too.
The final book in the series is a well-plotted and fast-paced story full of thrilling twists and turns. Audrey Driscoll’s writing is quite elegant, smooth and atmospheric. I absolutely love the supernatural elements coiled within the story and I can’t help but notice the thorough research in Ancient Egypt mythology, language and history she must have done. Although not unexpected (where else would you find them if not in Egypt?) the paranormal components are original and intelligent.
What is really impressive in this novel is the setting, both in terms of time and location — Egypt in the early 1960s.
I can’t personally vouch for the time period, but it does feel genuine to me. This level of authenticity isn’t always easy to achieve. Audrey Driscoll skillfully uses different ways and various tools to get us there, from clothing, certain vocabulary and pop-culture references of that time, to the mentality of the characters and their social interactions. The1960s were tumultuous and revolutionary in many ways and she is able to bring forth the first tremors of those upcoming changes.
For the place, I can testify. I visited Egypt the early 1990s, some thirty years after the events taking place in She Who Returns. I doubt, however, that there have been lots of changes around the Pyramids of Giza, in Sakkara or in Luxor between the1960s and the 1990s, or even today, for that matter. Not in the essence. Time flies here, but in other parts of the world, it has its own pace. When I was reading this book, I had a feeling I was there. Not unlike its prequel, She Who Returns, brought up my most cherished memories of Egypt: the scents of dust and sand, the colours, the sounds, the tastes, and my hard-to-explain but meaningful connection with that magical corner of the world.
I haven’t read the earlier books in the series, but I know that the novels span over half of a century. I was occasionally lost in the complex family ties and connections, but the author was able to take me out of there with her clever and strategically placed pointers for key characters, places, and important past events. I found the heroine of the book, France Leighton, thoughtfully envisioned, well-situated in her time and her age, and for all that, believable.
Knowing when to finish your series is one of the greatest skills. It seems that Audrey Driscoll found the perfect moment.
Five stars! I’ll tweak this review a little bit and post it on Smash and Amazon.
Merry Christmas, Audrey!
The third part, scheduled for Dec. 15, isn’t going to be a Christmas review, just a review. It’s about quite a different book – dark, disturbing and beautifully written.