When what’s real keeps shifting in monstrous ways, can Emma find her way home? Can she even hold on to sanity and self?
With a head full of metal that causes migraines and occasional blackouts, 17-year-old Emma makes the best of her life at Holten Prep until one of her teachers accuses her of plagiarizing a dead writer’s unfinished and inaccessible manuscript. Taking off on a trip with her friend Lily, Emma gets caught in a freak snowstorm, and she finds her survival, her fate and even her past entwined with those of seven strangers. Reality keeps shifting, and motifs keep repeating, and everything is tied to dead horror author Frank McDermott and the bizarre and bloody way he wrote his stories. Can Emma and her companions escape the monster he released? Bick’s doorstopper mixes provocative ideas from Inkheart and the movies The Matrix and Inception with a little Charles Dickens, but it doesn’t give readers much in the way of character or plot to hang onto through huge swaths of the tale. Quick cuts between short chapters with cliffhanger endings attempt to keep pages turning; instead, they offer ample opportunity to put this overlong and often confusing first of another gargantuan trilogy down and move on to something more immediately engaging and sustained.
Fans who can forgive the downer ending can look forward to a historical-thriller sequel shortly (or longly, as the case will surely be). (Horror. 14 & up)