Everyone in Ormscaula knows what happened to Alva Douglas’s mother, all those years ago. It’s why Alva can’t wait to leave. But when dark forces begin to stir in the surrounding mountains, Alva has to face a very different future to the one she’s been dreaming of – and question everything she thought she knew about her past…

Blurb from Goodreads

4 stars

 

Not bad.

Not bad at all.

Not at all what I was expecting considering the blurb and the first chapter (which kind of annoys me because it was frankly redundant) but regardless, this was a good, eerie thriller.

I loved the setting and the characters were great. Alva was a solid lead, I liked her the entire way through and she was a great narrator. She’s so tough and so hard to shake up – which makes sense when you’ve been living with the man you know murdered your mother seven years previously, and who might murder you at any moment. Of course, she’s as tough as nails.

Ren is a great character. He’s fun and rakish and is just a nice match for Alva’s sturdiness. Gavan, kind of plays the third member of the group, though he’s from his own separate group. He’s the sweetest guy going – I honestly don’t know how his unhinged father raised such a nice guy. Ren is my favourite between the two, but Gavan is just straight up nice.

The plot somewhat took a turn from what the blurb suggests. I love the turn it took – one of my favourite types of plots – I would have been more forgiving of it if it wasn’t for the outlier of a first chapter (but I’ll talk about that in the spoiler section at the bottom of the review).

Regardless, ignoring that, I loved the eeriness of this book. The setting: historical Scotland? Awesome. I’m not exactly sure of the time period. While the lifestyle, fashion, etc was very Period Drama, the manner of speech was usually quite modern with an ‘Olden Day’ twist thrown in once in a while. But I’m assuming 100 or so years ago. But also, not important. What’s important was I loved the setting and the various characters we meet who all have their personalities and attitudes and we learn just enough about them and see just enough of them to make it feel like, yes, there is a real village connected to this story.

As I said, I really liked the plot. It was concerning, it was creepy, it was scary and worrying and it was, in a way, very, very sad.

Expected? Yes.

Accepted? No.

Salisbury, how dare you. You know what you did.

But if you’re looking for something eerie, with great characters and a solid plot that you can read in less than a day, I present you with Hold Back the Tide.

 

Cover: Great cover. Love the cover. The whole reason I picked up the book was for that cover and the title (so it does its job). Really lends itself to the expected plot and kind of lends itself to the real plot but, either way, love this cover.

 

Overall: Great book that should most certainly be read by YA horror fans. It’s a plot I’ve seen before, in as much as the ‘Real Plot’ reminds me of, say, Until Dawn or White Out (which could spoil it for some of you,) but read anyway. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen similar plots before, I still really liked it. Totally worth a read.

 

 

SPOILERS:

Ok, here on out, no reading unless you don’t care about spoilers.

Me? Can’t stand them but you’ve been warned.

 

Ok, this is what annoys me about the book. It’s not a big deal or anything, but it still annoys me. From the blurb and the first chapter, the plot I was expecting was the story of a girl who’s father is a serial killer. He’s a serial killer, his wife helped to keep herself alive. Father kills her anyway and Alva takes up the role her mother left behind, making herself so invaluable that it would be an inconvenience to kill her off.

That is basically a summary of the first chapter. It’s written like a letter from mother to daughter shortly before she’s killed, instructing her on how to survive while living in the presence of a murderer who is easily tipped over the edge.

Everything about it suggests a wife living in fear for her life, in an abusive environment where her limited luck runs out and one day she makes her husband so angry he kills her.

This makes sense. Until you meet the characters and see Alva’s memories of her parents.

Alva’s father is easily bought to anger and is short-tempered. Fine. But nothing about him really suggests Killer. When Alva thinks back of her memories of her family, they always come across as a well put together family.

There is one, awful memory for Alva where, yeah, oh my gosh, fair enough, no wonder she thinks her father is a killer and she’s been fearing for her life ever since. She hears what she thinks in the murder of her mother. She hears the screaming, she hears the gunfire, she hears her father leaving for the loch and her mother’s body is never found. Fine, this is all fine. I have no problem with Alva thinking she’s living with a killer.

But it (unreasonably) annoys me that this pointless instructional manual for A Family Member’s Survival Guide to Living with a Killer opens the book, to be there for nothing other than to try and throw you off the real plot.

I don’t get it. Maybe I’m missing something – in which case I’m probably missing the bleeding obvious. But I don’t know why it was there.

I half wondered if Alva’s father somehow caused the miscarriage of Alva’s sibling, as it was described that he kept saying he was sorry to his wife after the miscarriage when she fell into a depression – but this was never mentioned again and he clearly deeply loved his family – and the letter made it sound like he killed on the reg.

So I don’t get it. Like I said, I think it’s just to throw you off the trail to make the Big Twist more shocking – it’s not, it’s very obvious – but I thought it was just a bizarre additional red herring that wasn’t needed.

And it totally shouldn’t annoy me as much as it does but it does lol.

Either way, this is still a great book and this little annoyance is so irrelevant to how good the story is. If I missed something, I missed something, maybe he is some serial killer stalking the highlands of Scotland, but regardless, great book. Must read.