In the shadowed corridors of literary mystique, a monster beckons, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the chilling embrace of the enigmatic tale that unfolds within the pages of ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall.’ The haunting narrative, the air itself seemed to carry echoes of forgotten whispers, weaving a tapestry of spectral intrigues.
The very essence of ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall‘ ‘ resonates with a spectral allure, promising a journey through time-honored curses and lingering phantoms. Prepare to be ensnared by the beguiling dance of shadows as we navigate the darkened corridors and unravel the secrets concealed within the heart of this captivating tale.
Title: ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘
Author: Jess Armstrong
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Star Rating: 4 stars
Spice Rating: 0 chili peppers
Released on: December 5, 2023, Minotaur Books
‘The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘ Synopsis
In a mesmerizing blend of atmospheric gothic mystery and the ancient charm of the Cornish countryside, Jess Armstrong unfurls the tale of heroine Ruby Vaughn in her award-winning debut, released by Minotaur Books. In ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall.‘ we navigate the post-Great War era, Ruby, an American heiress, discovers solace running a rare bookstore in Exeter alongside her octogenarian housemate. The past, once carefully tucked away, resurfaces as she embarks on a delivery mission to the heart of Cornwall. Fate, relentless as ever, leads her to the foreboding fortress of Penryth Hall, the residence of her once-dearest friend Tamsyn and her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth.
As Ruby steps into this unsettling domain, an evening of discomfort unfolds, culminating in Edward’s gruesome demise in the orchard. The tolling of Penryth’s bells, silent for thirty years, heralds his death and whispers of a resurrected curse. In the wake of this ominous event emerges Ruan Kivell, the mysterious figure whose books brought Ruby to Cornwall. A Pellar, as the locals deem him, is believed to possess the power to break the curse. Though Ruby dismisses curses and Pellars as mere folklore. The villagers of Cornwall live in the shadows of belief, fearing the impending doom that might claim Tamsyn as its next victim.
To shield her friend, Ruby finds herself entangled in a reluctant alliance with the Pellar, delving into the mysteries of that fateful orchard night to uncover the truth that may unravel the sinister threads of the curse looming over Penryth Hall.
PLOT SUMMARY of ‘the curse of penryth hall‘
‘The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘ opens with our main character Ruby being given an assignment to deliver a box of books to one of the folk healers in Cornwall. It is a place of history for Ruby. A place that ultimately takes her right to the doorstep of her now estranged best friend Tamsyn. Tamsyn and Ruby once had a romantic past. Now Tamsyn is married to Sir Edward Chenowyth and has a child. It leaves Ruby to feel a little slighted by Tamsyn.
Penryth Hall feels dark and stifling. There isn’t much warmth flowing through the halls. Sitting down to dinner (a tense and uncomfortable one nonetheless), Ruby is unsure what to think. Tamsyn appears incredibly unhappy with Sir Edward and her overall life at Penryth. Plus, with not seeing Tamsyn since her wedding, old feelings are bubbling up. And Ruby can’t wait to leave the Hall as soon as possible.
“The past was no good to anyone, and digging about in it only brought about unpleasantness. It was best to leave it where it was. Past.”
When Edward is brutally murdered that night, the villagers believe it is the return of an old curse placed on the Chenowyth line by a witch some time ago. The villagers are very superstitious. The Chenowyth line over time has seen some of the most horrifying murders. Now with Edward’s murder, everyone thinks that the curse is now coming for Tamsyn. Not to mention her son Jori.
There is only one person the townsfolk trusts to break this curse, the Pellar, Ruan Kivell. In folklore, the Pellar is a healer. One who can break spells among various other things. Ruan is a cherished and yet equally feared person for his abilities.
But the question is who killed Edward? And as the investigation gets underway who is attempting to kill Ruby in the process? There is no choice left but for Ruan and Ruby to work together to uncover if it is a curse. Or if it is just a person wanting to take them out.
“‘You walk around looking as if she’s ripped out your heart and is carrying it around with her in her pocket, and you can’t decide whether to go fetch it back or leave it where it is. Anyone can see that.’”
My Thoughts on ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall‘
I decided to listen to ‘ The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘ as an immersion read. Using both an audiobook provided by The Starless Bookstore and an ARC provided by Minotaur Books. Thank you to both! First and foremost I am a girl that loves atmosphere! And, immersing myself in the read this way was just perfection.
Emma Love as a narrator added some vibrancy while making it a subdued gothic adventure. Nailing the accents and making the story that much more fun to experience.
I loved Ruby as the main character. Not only Ruby but all the characters are interesting and well-developed. Ruby gives an I am not your average girl vibe and I loved it. She is strong-willed, and a bit impulsive. Yet, she is also loyal (to a fault), caring, and rational in thinking. Her “relationship” with Ruan was full of tension. It leaves you wanting them to end up together.
The prose adds to the gothic feeling of the tale. Allowing the setting and atmosphere to come alive. I am big on scenery, oftentimes having a hard time visualizing the surrounding area, more than the character’s description or actions taken. The visualization coming through on ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘ is smooth and easy. A testament to how well the prose is written.
The book’s premise was wonderful, and adding the folklore made it all the more interesting. With that, at times the book felt out of place. Being cryptic and confusing. This could have been intentional for the mystery aspect of it. Allowing to keep you on your toes. Or and I think this is a little more the case, it was just due to the writing within ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall‘.
“I’d been around the world, to war and back, and done things that would make the most wicked of men blush.”
The second option is chosen because there are a lot of twists within ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘ that are often clever, propelling the mystery. But in contrast, as Ruby is unveiling parts of the mystery, she tends to keep the cards she’s holding close. Even from the reader. Leaving that space where a clue should go.
Also, I wish that Ruby and Tamsyn’s story was a little more developed. After all of this time, and seeing Tamsyn get married why was Ruby still in love with Tamsyn? Had other things been leading up to this that allowed her to think that there was still a spark? We know that Ruby states she hasn’t spoken to Tamsyn, ignoring her letters. But this feels incomplete and glazed over.
“I’d expressly vowed to never set foot in the godforsaken county ever again.”
In addition to that incompleteness. Remember how it was mentioned that you would wish that Ruan and Ruby get together? That line also feels incomplete. There were feelings and words on the tip of both their tongues that were never expressed and also feels like they just dropped off into the abyss. Will there be a book 2? (After checking Goodreads there will be a book 2!) But now knowing that how will Ruan play into the next book? Is she just going to never see him again? So many questions.
Overall, ‘The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘ is a solid debut by Jess Armstrong. I definitely would recommend ‘ The Curse of Penryth Hall ‘. If you are a fan of A Botantist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari, A Most Agreeable Murder by Julia Seales, or even Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie, you should check out The Curse of Penryth Hall.