Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1)

Title: The Witch of Painted Sorrows
Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher: Atria Books
Published: March 17, 2015
Series: Daughters of La Lune #1
Format: Kindle ARC
Pages: 384
Date Read: February 24, 2015
Source: Received from the publisher via Netgalley 
in exchange for an honest review
Add To Your TBR list on Goodreads

My Rating: 2 Stars

 Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

Melissa's Musings:
When I first got approved for The Witch of Painted Sorrows, I was thrilled. Both because it was my first time ever requesting a book from Netgalley, and being approved, and because the premise of this book seemed so interesting.

I'm sad to say my interest in the synopsis was misguided.

As a main character, Sandrine didn't really do much for me. I wasn't all that interested in her. She just didn't feel fleshed out enough. Of what we learn about Sandrine, most of her personality is clouded over by the secrets of the life that she's running from, and then further complicated by the family history that she's run into by coming to Paris.

I was more intrigued by her grandmother. She too, was a frustrating character, in the sense that she only hints at things that Sandrine needs to know, but doesn't come right out and say them. Sadly, she her role is quite diminshed as the story progresses.

The most frustrating part of reading this book is that every time it seemed like Sandrine's grandmother was finally going to tell her the truth about the history, and why Paris isn't a good place for Sandrine to be, the author throws in some useless detail to distract the story and never gets to revealing anything of importance. One scene where Sandrine and her grandmother are in a restaurant, is particularly aggravating. They are eating and it seems like Sandrine is finally going to learn about her family history the story turns to the atmosphere of the restaurant, and then it weaves back around, and just as they are going to discuss the curse a rock comes right through the window where the two are sitting. There are a few other instances of this, but the restaurant scene is the one that most stuck out for me.

One of the parts of the book that I did enjoy was the authors world building in terms of the setting. I really felt that I was back in Paris in the Belle Epoque of the late 1800's. There are several well placed mentions of literature  of the time throughout the story. And of course there is all of the exploration of the art of the time, which is of course central to the story and the family curse. As frustrating as the distraction of it was, the setting in the restaurant scene also helped paint the picture of the time and the world that Sandrine and her grandmother were living in.

There is a romance between Julien and Sandrine that is important to the story but it fell flat for me. The love scenes between them do have an element sensuality, but overall there is too much to be learned about Sandrine's secrets and not enough foundation apart from the physicality to become caught up in their romance.

The witchcraft/occult element of the story is a bit more dark and twisty than I was expecting. Normally the stories I read about witches have to do with the exploration of their powers. This story is ultimately about how La Lune posesses Sandrine and gets her to do disturbing things to ensure that she can be with Julien. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

There's an element of religion to the story as well, so you see both the light and dark sides of Sandrine's predicament. I'll let you guess which one wins out in the end.

The end of the story is predictable. I was rooting against the ending, but I understand why it has to play out that way because that's the best way to set up the rest of the trilogy.

Overall, I was not impressed. The story felt half-hearted. Sandrine isn't an interesting enough main character for me to want to read on about what happens in the rest of her story. And while the history, art, and setting of the time are intriguing, they aren't enough to keep me reading either, unfortunately.

Before this story, I had not read any of M.J. Rose's other works. After reading this, I'm not sure I will read any of them.

I'd love to hear other thoughts and opinions on this novel. Have you read it? What did you think?

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