The Splendor Falls is a stand-alone YA supernatural novel by Rosemary Clement-Moore.
I'm a huge fan of Clement-Moore's Maggie Quinn series, having read and reviewed both Prom Dates from Hell and Hell Week - both excellent, witty, fast-paced YA paranormals. Sadly, I still haven't gotten the chance to read Highway to Hell, the third Maggie Quinn book, but I was super-excited to get this great author's stand-alone now in a paperback, gorgeous cover - a whopping 513 pages!!!
Sylvie Davis has a shattered life. She was a ballerina with a promising career at only sixteen, when her leg broke in a normally routine move and everything was over. In the midst of her pain and continued mourning of her father's death, Sylvie isn't pleased with her mother's marriage. To a shrink, at that. A shrink that wants to diagnose her.
But in order for them to have a delightful honeymoon, the newlywed couple send Sylvie off from her Manhattan home to Alabama where a cousin Sylvie barely knows is renovating their ancestral home and turning it into an inn. It's a small town full of family history that Sylvie has never been interested in, until she realizes her father used to summer here, and she grows desperate to know why he never spoke about it.
Then there's the handsome guy with the accent that is staying with his dad in the not-quite-open inn, working on a mysterious project. And the Tom Sawyer charmer of another long-resident family line in the area that keeps flirting with her, making her wince at the "inevitability" of the Davis and Maddox lines to "merge".
Sylvie just wants to dance again, she's not interested in all the soap-like drama and Southern culture. But she can't deny, as much as she wants to, that she's seeing things. A young woman running through the forest. Cries in the night. A chill deeper than a draft on the stairs. A man glaring out the window.
She is scared to death that after losing the ability to pursue her passion, she is now losing her mind too...
Rosemary Clement-Moore opens The Splendor Falls with a killer, quotable opening line and perfectly dramatic prologue. And it doesn't take long to sense the deep, if subtle, pain that Sylvie is in, but for a while I felt that was all I knew about her. But the hints of visions and/or hallucinations were alluring and enigmatic to what may come.
I was surprised at how slow moving the novel was. It featured lovely character development, giving the reader time to come to really know Sylvie and her grounded, relatable, believable personality. Her bond with her adorably small and sweet dog, Gigi, is also featured - making Sylvie all the more likable and perfect for us animal lovers. Yet I can't deny that not a lot was happening - for a long time. There were the slightest suggestions of the supernatural, but far less than what I was expecting.
However, The Splendor Falls continued to be riveting in other, less expected ways: the rich Southern tone, without cliche or disdain, was very appealing, the palpably strong chemistry between Sylvie and Rhys (the accented hottie), the questionable histories of the town's established families (of which Sylvie is part of), and luxurious atmospheric tone.
At one point I felt I knew exactly where The Splendor Falls was going, and I wasn't happy about it. I kept waiting for the slow, contemplative burn to progress to the point of a fantastic fireworks display - but that didn't happen. It's not that the novel never reached a peak - it did. It's just that what I expected of The Splendor Falls was not at all what this novel ended up being. Sylvie's story was far more a view of healing and hurt, rather than a page-turning, Maggie Quinn-like, fast-paced Veronica Mars meets Buffy awesomeness. But once I realized this, I was able to truly enjoy The Splendor Falls and accept that the opposite can be just as awesome, just different.
Rosemary Clement-Moore presents us with a strong, yet understated, romantic pull and delicately powerful contemporary fiction elements decorated with hints and whispers of ghosts, magic, and pasts long forgotten. It's earthy and patient - a bit long maybe, but a lovely, beautiful novel with excellently portrayed characters and an end that was heartrending, breathless, and insanely suspenseful.
The Splendor Falls ended up being a poignant, thoughtful, sensitive, horrifying, chilling, fantastic, sweet, romantic, extremely satisfying YA tale that I look forward to reading a second time with the right expectations. Because with that, I think it'll be even better. Which is honestly saying something.
I sat the book down happy. And I think you will too.
Oh, and by the way - that prediction I had about where the book was going? I was wrong. Another plus for The Splendor Falls!