I first came across Colleen Houck’s writing when I picked up Tiger’s Curse back in 2015. The series got me completely hooked and I loved everything about it. It was my first experience with non-European mythology in fantasy, and it really got me interested. I did more research after that cause I had the thought of how amazing it would have been if Tiger’s Cures was written by someone of Indian origin or someone how lived with the knowledge of Durga the goddess, aka an Own voices Author. I did know that that was what it was called. But Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Cures was the book that got me on that path. I owe a lot to her and that series for I have found some amazing stories along that path.
This ARC was provided to me by NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton in return for an honest review. Thank you!
The Lantern’s Ember
by Colleen Houck
Synopsis by NetGalley
Welcome to the Otherworld, where nightmarish creatures reign supreme . . .
Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil, thus condemning himself to an eternity of servitude. As a Lantern, his sole duty is to guard one of the many portals that lead to the immortal realm, making sure that no souls stray where they are not welcome. It’s a job that Jack excels at – until he meets the beautiful Ember O’Dare.
Seventeen-year-old witch Ember has been trying to trick Jack into letting her through the portal for years. Stubborn and undeterred by his warnings, she finally manages to cross into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire – and so the wild chase through a dazzling, dangerous world begins.
Can Jack get Ember back where she belongs before both the worlds, both earthly and supernatural, descend into chaos?
Within the first few chapters, I knew this would be a fun whimsical read, and I was there for it!
Let’s clear something up first: It’s not a scary or spooky novel! I feel a lot of people are disappointed because they are expecting a spooky story and this is not it. It’s a fun journey filled with whimsicalness and exploration. It had a middle grade feel about it, but certain events made it more a YA novel.
It’s not a perfect book, but I enjoyed it.
The story follows Jack and Ember’s journey into the Otherworld as Ember follows that tug in her belly. Ember is a witch living in the US just after the time of the witchhunts but before the technological advances of the modern age. Jack is the Lantern guarding the crossroad near her village. For her entire life, Jack and his pumpkin have been guarding her too.
The story contains a lot of explanations for why we have certain traditions for Halloween like the fire in a carved pumpkin, flying witches, and skeleton men. It all makes sense in the end.
It’s a typical portal style story. As mention in the synopsis, Ember crosses over into the Otherworld and goes on an adventure in an unknown place with a vampire who knows the place well. We learn about the Otherworld and about the different creatures along with Ember which was great.
It starts off with being the whimsical 50s tv show style magic. You know the type. Wiggling one’s noses and pointing fingers, but also carving words onto wood. Then it moves more onto magic through thoughts and by spells and witchlight. My favourite was when they made potions into small vials and used them in a specialised gun! It was great and so inventive!
Jack Lantern is the guardian protecting Ember’s village from creatures of the Otherworld. He has been a lantern for over 500 years and is a very interesting character. I like the fact that he isn’t entirely living nor dead. And the fact that he is not entirely solid either.
Ember O’Dare is the village witch and very naive but strong and independent too. She always wants to see the good in all creatures. She is also very clever and inventive. I liked her as a character but she wasn’t my favourite.
My favourite character was Delia the pirate captain! I loved her badassery. This strong and fierce vampire pirate is all I need in my life.
There are a lot of other characters too. It’s a whole cast.
When the story first starts it’s obvious who the love interest is for all parties. Then I started to get worried it might get a bit trophy, but fear not! It didn’t. There were a lot of guys, in the end, all fighting over her. But it was all done in a very gentlemanlike way; fully respecting each other and dealing with their jealousy in different ways. I loved it and it was very fascinating. I’ve never read anything like it. Let me know in the comments if you have.
I definitely needed this type of romance where all parties respect each other after all the negative romances I’ve read recently.
I’ve always enjoyed Colleens writing and this book is the same. It’s easy to read and to understand the characters. It did feel a bit middle grade in comparison with her other YA work, but it didn’t affect my feeling for the book.
The book could have been shorter as I felt there were some slow patches, but overall a very entertaining book.
Very entertaining read for a fun and whimsical Halloween book
Recommended if you like middle grade and would like something light and entertaining but still Halloween-themed.
Have you read this? What did you think?