Helene Dunbar’s paranormal young adult novel explores loss and grieving in a town where people communicate with the dead. Prelude for Lost Souls delivers exactly what its title promises: a book about music and lost souls in a town full of ghosts. Not only is it beautifully packaged with a stunning cover, but it is beautifully written as well.
In the town of St. Hilaire, most people are mediums. During the summer season, the town’s gates open to the public and tourists flood in to take part in the unique talents of its inhabitants.
The Guild, the governing body of St. Hilaire, creates the rules surrounding the use of abilities to summon and communicate with the dead. But the rules may not be as simple as they seem, and something much more sinister is afoot. . .
The novel follows the perspective of three main characters. Daniel “Dec” Hampton wants to get away—far away from St. Hilaire, the Guild, and the scene of his parents’ death two years prior. Conversely, his best friend Russ wants to ascend into the ranks of the Guild and become a powerful medium—all the while dealing with the lingering ghost of Ian Mackenzie, with whom Russ has a complicated relationship.
Then Annie Krylova, a piano prodigy who is grieving the loss of her mentor, gets on a train that breaks down right outside of St. Hilaire’s gates. Her music helped Dec cope during his darkest times, and her arrival sparks a series of events in a town that does not believe in coincidences.
I enjoyed the writing itself, though for most readers, it does seem to have a hit or miss effect. I felt that it was very appropriate for a first book in a series, with little details dropped along the way that allow for exploration in later books.
Dunbar also manages to capture grief and loss in a way that turned a paranormal book into a novel centered on human experience and struggle, which I appreciated.
I did want to see more of Dec’s relationship with his older sister Harriet, which I felt was slightly simplified in his attitude toward her (at least for most of the book). I wanted to know more scenes of Dec and his sisters’ lives before the tragedy that destroyed their family, and understand how that backstory brought to focus their lives at the current moment in which the book takes place. Of course, this book is intended to be the first in a series, so Dunbar still has time to expand on the backstory and how it affected the siblings’ relationships and identities.
Prelude for Lost Souls is a series to stick around for, and I can’t wait to see which way Helene Dunbar takes it in the future.