Not trying to reinvent the wheel, Lyndall Clipstone’s YA gothic romance Lakesedge delivers exactly what you’d expect from the genre. We got a broody monster boy, a drafty manor estate, and a doe-eyed girl in a wispy white nightgown. For fans of stories like Beauty and the Beast and Crimson Peak, this story will feel like the Ikea version. It gets the job done, but not much else.
The story follows orphan Violeta “Leta” Graceling
When her younger brother Arien’s nightmares start physically manifesting in dangerous ways, Rowan Sylvanan, the lord of the land, takes Violeta and Arien into his care at the Lakesedge estate. However, the lord is rumored to be a monster that murdered his entire family as a child in the lake at his estate.
But Leta comes to realize that there are much darker forces about than the monster boy she lives with. Deep in the inky waters of the lake, Lord Under, the king of the underworld, keeps Lakesedge under his control, with Rowan bound to him in servitude.
As Leta continues to fall for the boy she thought was a monster, she finds herself confronting the true monster in the lake to not only save Rowan, but herself.
Now, I am a huge fan of the gothic genre. Jane Eyre, Sweeney Todd, anything by Edgar Allen Poe, I find them all morbidly fascinating. I also love monster boys (shoutout to Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, Bigby Wolf the Fables comics, and Rook from An Enchantment of Ravens). So this book was immediately a must-have when I caught wind of its existence.
Alas, Lakesedge feels like the Walmart of the stories that have come before it
With that said, just like Walmart, there isn’t anything really wrong with Lakesedge. The setting is honestly one of the strongest components of this story. I love the eerie, inky black lake, and the secret orchard. The manor feels big and drafty, with cozy fireplaces and shadowy halls.
Also, the cast of characters is set up to be perfect for this kind of story. We have a young woman with a dark past and tragic upbringing, a young boy with dangerous powers, a young man who is more monster than human, a cute and bubbly alchemist, a mature, faithful servant, and a terrible enemy lurking in the deep.
Unfortunately, our main protagonists Leta and Rowan feel like cardboard cutouts for what they could have been. Leta is self-sacrificial; that’s about it. She does not care about her well-being or how her being in danger will upset others. As long as she can save who she cares about, that’s all that matters.
Rowan is the classic case of “looks like he could kill you, but is actually a cinnamon roll,” but we discover that within a few pages of meeting him. There is no long period of distrust or tension around Rowan. Leta discovers that he’s a good guy almost right away. Not to mention there is a healthy dose of instant love. Instead of a young maiden being taken to a spooky manor with a morally grey love interest full of tension, distrust, and mystery, we get a young woman meets a nice man and they now live together and make out.
Not to mention, the side characters are terribly underutilized, despite being the most interesting people in the story. How did Arien end up with dark magic? No idea. This alchemist character comes from a tight-knit society where it is looked down upon to leave the community and serve in an estate. Why did she choose to do that? We don’t get to know.
At least there is one more redeeming factor for this story.
The Lord Under is undoubtedly the best part of the story
His description and mannerisms are chilling, reminding me of the terrifying form of the Beldam from Coraline. His underworld is oddly horrifying and macabre with the souls of the dead trapped instead of dead trees. He is a spooky version of Hades from Greek mythology. I adored his relationship with certain characters. It’s bone-chilling in the best ways. Best husbando in the book, hands down.
To be fair, Lakesedge is only the first novel in a series
I’m sure that will give more time to flesh out characters and answer some leftover questions. Plus, the ending made me want to throw the book across the room in frustration and keep reading at the same time. So, I tentatively await the next installment.
All in all, Lakesedge is like an off-brand oreo–it’s not the best, but it tastes good enough.
Lakesedge was released on September 28th, 2021.