The Splendour Falls
By: Susanna Kearsley
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
An Ancient Castle, a Tragic Love, and a Web of Secrets Begins to Unravel…
Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings. When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary own of Chinon, and promptly disappears well, that’s Harry for you.
As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm. Legend has it that during a thirteenth-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a “treasure of great price.” And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.
As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.
This and her latest novel, A Desperate Fortune, were the only two left by Susanna Kearsley that I had not yet read. I picked this book up sometime in late November and early December, telling myself that I’d hold off on reading it as there won’t be a new novel by her until 2017. Well, lo and behold I couldn’t help myself and ended up reading it towards the end of 2015 anyhow (a good way to cap off the year, I suppose, given that I read most of her books that year).
The Splendour Falls in a way reminds me of Named by the Dragon (review) in that it was really about the characters moreso than the mystery of Queen Isabelle and the hidden treasure from her and from the Second World War. I really enjoyed that development, of Emily interacting with a rather diverse group of tourists staying in Chinon as well as some of the locals, exploring the old city, eating wonderful food, and occasionally delving into the mysteries of the locale. I’ve never been to any other place in France other than Paris, Lourdes, and Toulouse, so reading about the wonders of Chinon was wonderful–also had me craving for some French cuisine!
As much as I enjoyed the interactions, two things began to niggle at me the further along the novel I went. Firstly, usually I have a good idea in Kearsley’s novels who the heroine’s leading man of interest would be. I didn’t get that sense in this novel, having several men vye for that position (even if nothing ever comes of it, it’s still a bit of fun on my part to guess; and romance usually plays a large role in her novels). Which usually I don’t mind! I like a good guess/mystery, but by the third act of the novel it was getting a little frustrating. I sort of gave up, but this lack of clarity was a wee bit problematic.
Which leads me to the second bit that nagged me the further I read. The story seemed to have somewhat fallen apart by the last third of the novel; Harry is still nowhere to be seen to clarify the King John and Queen Isabelle story that we started this journey off with, the WW2 mystery about hidden treasure sort of comes and goes but not enough for the reader to keep it in mind as you read onward, and the incident in Emily’s past that changed her considerably from who she was before didn’t quite resonate with me/sort of fell flat. It just didn’t feel so cohesive, especially after the leisurely pace that the novel took in the first two-thirds of the story.
Nonetheless I enjoyed reading The Splendour Falls. The characters were wonderful–their interactions, their development & characterisations for the most part. It doesn’t fall flat per se (that award still remains with The Shadowy Horses (review) but the overarching storyline/mystery wasn’t quite so clear as her other novels are. Regardless of this, I’m glad to have finally read this novel. Now off to pick up A Desperate Fortune! At some point 😛