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Starling House

by Alix E. Harrow

I love birds. If you see someone chatting to the chickadees, hummingbirds and finches outside of the library, chances are it’s me. One of my favourite birds? The common starling. So naturally, as I skimmed the spines on the library shelf, a book called Starling House jumped out at me. As it turns out, while this book had a thing or two to do with starlings, it also offered a deeply satisfying and complex horror-gothic-fantasy-thriller-romance all at once.

For Opal, it’s always been about one thing: taking care of her little brother, Jasper. Ever since their mother’s tragic death 11 years before, it’s been the two of them against the world, living together in a motel room and struggling to get by in down-on-its-luck Eden, Kentucky. The town itself is haunted by the legacy of Starling House, an ominous mansion built by a children’s author who disappeared under mysterious circumstances a century before. Opal, however, is intrigued by the house and its sinister warden; she’s started having dreams about the house – almost as if it’s calling to her. When the opportunity to work at Starling House comes up, and with it more money than she’s ever dreamed of, Opal can’t say no. But what is the house hiding, and what does it have to do with Opal? What emerges is something much bigger, much darker, than Opal had ever thought possible – and that is connected to her family in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Author Alix E. Harrow has brilliantly crafted Opal’s story, delving into the dangerous, the romantic, and the truly creepy. There is depth in each character and the reader can’t help but fall in love with each of them: from Charlotte, the town librarian on her hopeful way out of Eden, to Arthur Starling, the mysterious warden who seems as haunted as the house itself. I’ll be honest – this was a challenging read at points due to its often dark subject matter, and I found myself slowing down to take the time to process the many layers that unfolded. Overall, this book offers a compelling read from beginning to end. If you’re for something you can sink your teeth into, or hey, if you too are a starling appreciator, you’ll likely love Starling House.