I feel bad saying this but I really didn’t like this book. The premise of the story was ok, it kind of reminded me of a ghost version of Alice in Wonderland, the main character- Tatiana – especially but the writing in the first half just did not work for me at all.
The story is about Tatiana’s journey to save Isabella’s spirit, an ancestor of hers who died during the French Revolution. She finds out along the way that she, and some of her family, are more connected to Isabella than she thought. Centuries old memories resurface with the haunting of a family portrait and the ashes of Tatiana’s grandmother.
Despite not liking the book I don’t have a problem with the characters themselves. Tatiana is reasonably good as a protagonist. She’s creative, kind, bit naive but overall a good character. Like I said, she reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. She just accepts the madness around her with only a little fuss. Also, I think. blue ribbons keep being used around her and she and her house have a bit of a Victorian feel to them, but I’ll mention that later. The other characters, Marcus and Louis, are ok as well. Marcus sometimes sounds/ acts like a stereotypical jealous friend but it doesn’t go over the top with that. Louis, I’m not sure about. I don’t think I got much of an impression of him, he seemed nice enough but his lack of belief annoyed me at times.
The main problem for me was how the first half was written. Up until the protagonists go to France the dialogue is unnatural and almost cringe worthy a times with lines like: “The whole of life is a question of choices” and “trust yourself and follow your instincts”. Sounds a bit cliché. Add to that the sound or the accent of the characters, it just didn’t work for me. Tatiana is meant to be English I think with French/ Russian ancestors. At times she sounds American, or a stereotypical Californian Cheerleader: “like she was for real”. When I first heard the thoughts of Lisette- a French aristocrat during the Revolution- I thought she sounded almost Cockney. On rereading those lines, after I finished the book, I kind of saw where it was going on the accent but it still didn’t work.
The feel of the place also didn’t work for me. I’m pretty sure Tatiana is in 21st century England- she mentions the internet, iPhones and central heating but the feel of the house is Victorian London. I’m a Londoner -I have no idea what part of England the book is in, almost positive it’s not London- and definitely not rich so I can’t say much in terms of houses, but I personally don’t know any houses that has spare bedrooms, a playroom, drawing room, a grand piano, an old barn and cellars all together. Really not something you see much. The fact that Marcus went to boarding school just added it. I mean I’m sure there are boarding schools here but I don’t know any – unless you include university. The whole feel of it is Victorian or older to me.
Sentences in the first half of the book were hard to read. The Spirit Trap is a small book but the some of the sentences were just too long and descriptive. One line that sounded awkward to read was; “the eerie rustling as she scrunched though the dried leaves carpeting the damp most-smelling earth was making her jittery”. This is just half of the opening sentence and it already feels too long and descriptive. This continues on till the characters go to France. Add to that it was confusing at times. Sometimes it wasn’t clear what was thought or action. There were times that I thought she did something but it turned out she had actually done the opposite and what I read was her just thinking about doing it.
Writing wise there were only a few other things that annoyed me. I couldn’t work out why some parts were in French when other times it was in English when it came to the French Revolution characters. It went back and forth between the two languages. Moreover, there was random use of italics. Sometimes it’s used for thought, sometimes for actions, singing or quotations, sometimes in the middle of speech like: “Hell’s teeth, she sounds ill”. Why is part of it in italics, it doesn’t sound like an emphasis? All this is not helped, for me anyway, with the haphazard use of names. At times the characters are referred to by their relation to Tatiana, like her mother, then towards the end her mother started to be referred to by her first name. It was confusing for me since I thought there was a change in POV without me noticing
I’m not fond of the book as a whole but the second half is better. The sentences even out, the dialogue a bit more believable, a lot more action rather than description. I did like that the characters didn’t find the answers so easily. In some stories the characters go to a place where they find a clue to go to the next. In The Spirit Trap they don’t do this they go back and forth between new and places they’ve already been.
There were some good descriptions here in there, like that set in the Revolution but I think overall the book might be better as a film or a miniseries. Other than some of the long explanation speeches I think this has a more visual feel to it like some of the strange going ons with the portrait.
All in all, I can’t say that I enjoyed the book. While the second half is better, I can’t get over the first part. I liked the Alice in Wonderland feeling I kept getting and the references to the French Revolution but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone to read.