The Last Heir to Blackwood Library
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Published: April 4th, 2023 (Graydon House)
Thank you to the publisher, Graydon House, Harlequin Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In post – World War I England, a young woman inherits a mysterious library and must untangle its powerful secrets …
With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended. With nothing to keep her in London since losing her brother in the Great War, she warily makes her way to her new home.
The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.
Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story – before it vanishes forever.
In the aftermath of World War I, Ivy Radcliffe unexpectedly inherits the title of Lady Hayworth, and with it a Yorkshire estate known as Blackwood Abbey. Having lost all her family, Ivy does not hesitate to move into the manor, though she is uncertain about what awaits her there. The abbey is a strange place with less than welcoming servants and unexplainable occurrences, but she is overjoyed to discover the vast library it houses and is irresistibly drawn to it despite sensing at times, a presence lingering amongst the shelves. Ivy soon learns that there are many rumors surrounding the abbey, its previous owners who all mysteriously died young and talk of ghosts and curses. But as odd events begin to turn sinister and Ivy finds herself losing memories of conversations and actions, she begins to suspect that the root of it all lies in the library, and a mysterious manuscript it is rumored to house. Time is running short however, and as her forgetful episodes start spanning days, Ivy must uncover the secrets of Blackwood Abbey before it is too late.
💭 Initial Thoughts: The combination of historical fiction and mystery is one I enjoy, and though the only thing really historical about this is when it is set, the synopsis made this book too interesting to pass up.
🌎 Plot, World building & Atmosphere: The beginning of this book was great, especially the prologue, set hundreds of years in the past, which created the mood and tone for this perfectly. The first couple of chapters drew me into the story immediately and even though most of the explanations came later in the book, it held my attention throughout.
The plot was very well structured and thought out and the concept of Blackwood Abbey and the forces surrounding it an intriguing concept. While the premise obviously hints at a bit of a gothic atmosphere, supernatural forces and so on, I wasn’t quite prepared for how central to the tale it would be, and personally, it wasn’t to my taste.
✍🏻 Writing & Narration: This book was quite well written. At just over 300 pages, it was an easy read and a fast paced one too, which kept me turning the pages late into the night – though perhaps reading it at night wasn’t such a good idea as the story became quite creepy at times.
On the downside, since everything is narrated from Ivy’s perspective, this quickly became a case of an unreliable narrator. When Ivy started forgetting things, as a reader, I had no idea what was going on and the bizarre behaviour of some of the characters made zero sense until much, much later. I don’t like unreliable narrators, so this greatly reduced my enjoyment of the book. Ivy’s memory loss was also used as a plot device to gloss over many events that would have added a lot to the storyline if properly fleshed out and portrayed but instead were reduced to being described in a few sentences from someone else. At the very least, there should have been one more POV.
👥 Characters: The plot was certainly strong and it basically carried the whole story in my opinion, since there was next to no character development. Between the single POV, Ivy’s memory loss, and secondary characters who did not impress, there was really no time for it.
Ivy herself wasn’t a likeable character for me. Right from the beginning, she seemed reckless when she just made the decision to accept the legacy she was heir to without bothering to find out anything and brushed off the warnings from many people later to do what she wanted. Then later, she turned out to be incredibly naive, trusting people she just met and it was annoying that she kept ignoring all the warning signs.
Then there was the staff at the abbey who, while they turned out to be good later, were being near hostile initially and refusing to give Ivy any straight responses for no real reason at all. In fact they were pretty much deliberately misleading and uncooperative, supposedly trying to protect her – though why they couldn’t they have just sat Ivy down and explained things properly right at the beginning I don’t know.
🎬 Ending: The last handful of chapters were a little too rushed and seemed to be racing to wrap things up. I would have liked it if the ending was drawn out a little more since the reader was left to infer a lot from the sort-of-epilogue. Once again, several rather obvious questions were left unanswered, such as how did Ivy just continue on with her life without any repercussions of what happened and more.
❓ Final Thoughts & Recommendation: Overall, this was a decent read, though probably not one I will re-read. If you’re in the mood for a quick read and an atmospheric one, I would recommend this!
The Last Heir to Blackwood Library releases on April 4th, 2023.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.
Becky and I are about to buddy read this book. We love historical mysteries, too. Have you read Rip Through Time?
I can’t remember when I last read a historical fiction/mystery but I’m glad that you enjoyed it Raji! Another great review!
Seemed like a solid setting and premise. I appreciate your breakdown of the book, Raji. That would have been a frustrating read for me.
Sounds like an awesome book to read. Your review got me intrigued to read this book. Thank you for sharing.
This sounds really interesting! The plot itself immediately stands out to me as one I’d like to read. However, knowing how you feel about the characters (specifically the FMC) and the unreliable narration gives me pause. I’ll have to do a little more research to see if it might be something I pick up out of sheer curiosity haha
This looks so good!! I’m going to have to add this to my must read list! Thanks so much for sharing!
I’ve never heard of this author or this book, but I’m a big fan of historical fiction 🙂 thank you for sharing your review here x
This sounds like a good quick read for me on one of those days when I simply want to be entertained–I also happen to love backdrops centered around either of the World Wars and have a fascination with libraries. 🙂