The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Sylvie Davis was once a promising ballerina, but a broken leg ended her career. Distraught over her injury, her father’s death, and her mother’s remarriage, she overindulges in champagne at the wedding reception, and sees something … supernatural. Something that simply isn’t possible. Her mother and stepfather, convinced that Sylvie is either an alcoholic or mentally ill, pack her off to Alabama to recuperate at the home of a cousin.
But life at Bluestone Hill is far from peaceful. Sylvie soon realizes she’s walked into a hotbed of simmering tensions. And by the way, the house just might be haunted…
The Splendor Falls has a lot going for it. There’s just something about a good Southern-gothic ghost story, and this one mixes in some fascinating bits of Welsh myth. I also liked the character of Sylvie. Her struggle to rebuild her life and her worries about her sanity are moving, and while Sylvie is sometimes snippy, it’s understandable! Then there’s Gigi, Sylvie’s dog. The relationship between Gigi and Sylvie is a beautiful thing. This is a book for dog lovers, no question about it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t love The Splendor Falls as much as I wanted to. The main problem is the pacing. It simply takes a little too long to get to the meat of the plot. Instead, the beginning of the book is taken up largely with bickering among the major characters. Between Sylvie’s cranky cousin, a prickly and secretive love interest, and a local “Queen Bee,” there’s a lot of arguing, much of which annoyed me without adding much to the plot. I also had trouble mustering up much interest in the love triangle, since one of the love interests is so obviously superior (to my mind, at least) that I couldn’t figure out why Sylvie was attracted at all to the other guy. However, it turns out later that there’s a supernatural reason for this attraction, and when this is revealed, the whole thing makes a little more sense.
Then, when the plot does get off the ground, it feels like Rosemary Clement-Moore tried to rush too much story into the last few chapters. I wanted more about the Civil War backstory and the ancient Welsh backstory. In particular, I think Clement-Moore could have made The Splendor Falls stronger by adding more excerpts from the diary of Sylvie’s ancestress. We often see Sylvie reading this diary, but with only one exception, the reader gets Sylvie’s summary of the contents rather than an actual excerpt. This, to me, would have been a better use of page space than some of the cattiness and arguments that do fill the book.
Overall, The Splendor Falls moves a little too slowly even for me, but it’s nice to see a YA paranormal romance that isn’t just another Twilight clone. (No vampires!) An older book that you might like, if you enjoy The Splendor Falls, is Liz Berry’s The China Garden. Dark secrets, romance, and mysterious gardens ahoy!