Author: Lyndall Clipstone
There are monsters in the world.
When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.
There are monsters in the woods.
As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…
There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.
Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.
Lakesedge is the first novel in the World at Lake’s Edge series. I did not know what to expect before reading, aside from it being labeled as a gothic fantasy, but the novel was much more than that. It did deliver on the gothic fantasy vibes, but it brought in a found family vibe that I was not expecting. The cover drew me to read this novel, but the writing and the characters made me stay and I ended up devouring it in less than a day. The writing itself is lyrical and filled with prose that adds to the magical feeling. There are multiple trigger warnings for this novel, including self-harm magic, to be aware of before reading.
The story focuses on 17-years-old Violeta (Leta) Graceling, who was found when she was younger by her adoptive mother in the Vair Woods. After losing their parents, Leta and her 13-years-old brother, Arien, were wandering around lost in the woods. The events leading to that moment are mysterious and explored throughout the novel. The novel begins in present day where Leta is comforting Arien as his shadow magic is taking over, which gives the reader its first glimpse at the dark magic. When her family visits the neighboring village of Greymere for Tithe Day (tributes are given to the lords), Arien’s magic is discovered by the Monster of Lakesedge. The Monster is also known as 19-years-old Lord Rowan Sylvanan, whose family owns all the land in the valley. He became Lord after his mother, father, and brother were killed and the murderer is believed to be Rowan. He takes Arien and Leta to Lakesedge Estate for a special mission, where more secrets and dangers are revealed.
At the estate, the reader is introduced to Clover Aensland, the alchemist of Lakesedge, and Florence, the caretaker of Lakesedge. Together the five characters seek to destroy the Corruption that plagues the Lake. Although Arien is open to assist, Leta cannot help but distrust those around her and she will stop at nothing to ensure that Arien remains safe. The more time that Leta spends with Rowan, the more she discovers about the human beneath the monster façade. The two of them develop a nice friendship and some slow burn romantic feelings for the other. The romance and relationships still have a lot of potential to go any direction as none of them, aside from Leta’s love for Arien, it set in stone by the end. There is room for the story’s characters to move in any direction in the sequel. Although both Leta and Rowan begin to care for the other, they keep their focus on the main mission of the Corruption and the want to keep everyone safe.
Although the gods are mentioned in the beginning of the novel, they are further explored as the story moved forward. There is the Lady, who made the world, and the Lord Under, who is the Lord of the Dead. Together they provide the balance in the world. The Lord Under is a very intriguing character, as he originally seems evil, but, for me, moved to a more morally grey area. His connection to the main characters of the story was well done as it weaved together well and will be interesting to see how it further comes together in the sequel. There are many elements for the reader to track in the story, but everything comes together by the end with a sense of direction leading into the sequel. The pacing at the beginning of the novel was interesting as it felt both fast yet slow before returning to a steady pace in the middle as the characters developed. The ending is fast paced as the tension builds to a climax that leads the reader into anticipation for the sequel.
The novel itself is interesting, as at times it reads similar to a standalone, although there is a direct sequel, Forestfall, being published in 2022. Although it was not the focus of the novel, as it is a m/f romance at the center, I greatly enjoyed the representation in the characters. The main character, Leta, is written as demisexual and Rowan, is hinted at possibly being bisexual based on some pieces he reveals about himself. There is a f/f romance referenced and Arien is mentioned on-page to be queer. It will be very interesting to see how all of the storylines will further develop in the sequel. Overall, this novel may or may not be for every type of reader; however, it worked well for me and I absolutely will be waiting in anticipation for the sequel!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), for the opportunity to read this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**