Gathering Deep

Gathering Deep

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Sweet Unrest. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Gathering Deep was written by Lisa Maxwell and first published in 2015. It is a sequel to Sweet Unrest (2014) and picks up two weeks after this novel left off. Although this book follows a different protagonist and so does stand-alone to a degree, I would still advise reading the stories in order if you want to fully appreciate them.

Chloe Sabourin has no memory of her time as Thisbe’s puppet but still struggles to come to terms with what happened. Although she didn’t have any control over herself, she still feels terrible about the part that she played in hurting Lucy and her family. She now knows that her mother was actually a dark witch who had survived centuries by harvesting Alex’s life force. Worse still, Thisbe has survived and put up wards to ensure that Chloe can’t return to her home. It’s clear that she’s still up to something.

When another body is found ritually slain, Chloe realises that her worst fears are justified. Thisbe is making more of the red thread and so must be looking for a new victim. However, her attempts to help stop her are blocked by Piers and Mama Legba. Even though she is free of Thisbe’s control, they still don’t trust her as they’re worried that the witch could take hold of her again.

Their fears are partially justified as Chloe begins to have vivid dreams about Thisbe’s youth, dreams that hark back to a time of rebellion and bloodshed. When Piers vanishes and the ingredients needed to summon a Loa disappear from Mama Legba’s shop, Chloe realises that the answers they need might just lie in her visions. But with the mambo unwilling to help her, Chloe is forced to seek out someone with darker powers to make sense of Thisbe’s past…

First of all, I should note that I’m writing this review based on an advanced copy that I received from Netgalley and am aware that it may not reflect the quality of the published work. In light of this, I’m not going to make any comment on spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors in the story (as I assume that these will all have been edited out of the final piece) and am just going to talk about the meat of the novel.

Gathering Deep is actually a very different novel to Sweet Unrest and I’m not sure that really worked for me. As a general rule, I don’t really expect the genre of a series to change between books. At its heart, Sweet Unrest was really a paranormal romance novel that focused on the relationship between human Lucy and Alex, a ghost who was in love with Lucy in one of her previous lives. Gathering Deep entirely sheds the romance angle and is strictly a paranormal horror story. While this may appeal more to people who don’t enjoy romance stories, if you enjoyed this aspect of Sweet Unrest I think that you’re in for some disappointment.

Unfortunately, Gathering Deep was not as strong a novel as its prequel. While it was well written and did maintain the same eerie Southern Gothic style, the core plot this time was a little too simple. Sweet Unrest was always very careful not to show its full hand, instead keeping up the mystery of how Alex had died until very close to the end. Perhaps I am just used to the way that Maxwell structures her stories now but I didn’t think that the mystery this time around was all that effective. I guessed most of its intricacies fairly early on and so the climax did nothing to really surprise me. In fact, the only thing that really caught me off guard was the fact that Ikenna wasn’t Baron Samedi. His aesthetic was so similar that I was expecting that to be the twist.

The plot is also bogged down by the inclusion of a number of tangents that ultimately go nowhere. By far the worst offender was the subplot about Ikenna trying to take over Mama Legba’s turf. While this could have made for an exciting double-cross (or at least provided the plot for the next book), the climax of Gathering Deep rendered this utterly moot. It could have largely been cut from the story altogether without making an impact. Another particularly weak subplot was Roman’s back story. Although the novel builds him as some powerful antagonist, he is dealt with off-page in a really undramatic manner which left me wondering why the author included his development in the story at all.

I was also put off by the way that voodoo was portrayed in this novel. I didn’t really get into this in the last review at all but in Sweet Unrest, Maxwell portrays Haitian Voodoo in a very balanced way and is very careful to talk about all of the positive aspects of the religion. Which is what it is – a religion that is openly practiced and is as valid as any other.

Gathering Deep doesn’t do this anywhere near as well. The novel only really focuses on the kind of Hollywood voodoo that’s lead to the religion’s negative connotations in the media. It really only makes reference to things like sacrifice, voodoo dolls and binding spells – all really black stuff. While I did like the way that the story portrayed Baron Samedi, some of the other lack of accuracy was a bit off putting for me. This time, it felt a lot more like the author was using voodoo for its shock value rather than portraying it fairly. I mean, talking to Loa is a pretty common part of the voodoo faith. Even a quick Google shows says that Baron Samedi usually accepts offerings of things like cigars and rum. Saying that he needs a human sacrifice to cross over into our plain of existence just seems to be demonising him a bit far.

In terms of characterisation, this novel was also pretty weak. In my review of Sweet Unrest, I said that the biggest issue was that I felt nothing for the main characters. That is unfortunately still true. Lucy seems to have gotten over Alex’s death remarkably fast. It’s only been two weeks and yet she shows no signs of mourning him. Piers has also taken that time to transform into a horrible, controlling bastard who seems keen to never allow Chloe to do anything for herself. Even Mama Legba, the best character in Sweet Unrest, seems to have stopped caring this time around. She has barely any impact on the novel, claiming that she wants to stop Thisbe but making absolutely no effort to do so.

Yet the worst offender in the cast is Chloe. Chloe was, unfortunately, very dull. Part of the problem was that she was so isolated from events. Other than have the occasional dream, Chloe really has no impact on this story. As everyone else in the story was intent on limiting her actions, Chloe largely sat on the side lines and watched as her friends were put into trances and went off to explore Thisbe’s home. As Chloe was the narrative voice, this was a huge problem as she wasn’t actually present for many of the events and had to be told about them after they had occurred.

I also hated Chloe for her weakness. Although Thisbe had done horrible things (up to and including murdering Chloe’s best friend), she still continuously pined for her and desperately wanted her mother back. She also showed little ability to stand up for herself, particularly to Piers who spend most of the early novel ordering her around. While she occasionally voiced her discontent, she also typically did exactly what he asked. I really hate female characters who are this much of a push over. I spent most of the novel hoping that Chloe would give Piers his marching orders and wind up with Odane but sadly it never came to be.

So, sadly, this wasn’t the story for me. While I thought that the setting showed promise and there were odd scenes that I enjoyed, I just couldn’t get into it. The story was too fragmented and predictable, the characters were weak and it failed to show voodoo in an especially positive light. I don’t know if the story will continue beyond her but, in honesty, I’m not that interested in reading more even if it does.

Gathering Deep can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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