Welcome to my stop on the blogtour! A massive thank you to Milly @Millsreid11 and @JoFletcherBooks for giving me a spot because I adored this book!
Now this is how you do Gothic literature. Mexican Gothic is a beautiful, creepy and outright horrifying tale that perfectly captures the heart of Gothic literature while also keeping it fresh and unique.
Goodreads Synopsis: From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow
“He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.”
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and has an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind
Content/Trigger Warnings: May Contain Minor Spoilers: Sexual Assault/Attempted Rape/Gore/Murder/Suicide/Violence/Abuse/Captivity/Incest – I apologise for any I may have missed.
Ok, so this review is probably going to be a little less structured than usual because I’m basically going to be telling you why I loved this beautiful book a lot and could find no faults! You all know by now that Gothic Literature is a love of mine, after studying it for 2/3 years I fell in love and actively seek it out and this one was a perfect read for me!!
So firstly, let’s see what key Gothic Elements Silvia Moreno-Garcia could have included and nailed (hint ALL OF THEM Are Done Perfectly):
- Gorgeous Gothic Architecture usually part of a mansion or castle? – CHECK
- Isolated Landscapes that have An Alluring Sense Of Beauty But Also Danger – usually Woodlands/mountains/marshes? – CHECK
- Cemeteries/Graveyards, usually accompanied by mists/fog – CHECK
- A Damsel In Distress, An ‘Old Hag’/ Elderly Mother, Headstrong Save Herself Woman, Or Seductress – one or all of these may appear- CHECK
- Woman locked up by a man (usually creepy/stereotypically masculine – toxic masculine) – CHECK
- The ‘Innocent’ (who probably knows more than they let on) who wants to help but can’t –CHECK
- Monsters/Family Curses/Hauntings/Doppelgangers – usually paranormal and can have psychological elements- CHECK
- Love/Romance/Seduction – can be romantic or sexual – CHECK
Each category is checked in someway filling at least one requirement in each section, this book is the perfect blend of Gothic Motifs and each one is portrayed perfectly. Silvia Moreno-Garcia manages to create a darky, creepy and horrifying story that is beautifully written and has some incredible female leads.
— Rich, Descriptive, Immersive, Evocative And Atmospheric —
The Writing Style/Narrative: Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing style is beautiful – it is rich, descriptive, immersive, evocative and atmospheric. She perfectly captures the beauty of the Gothic genre and balances it well with the horror and gore present in the story. The writing is beautifully descriptive, each of the settings are bought to life through the gorgeous or chilling metaphors – each scene stand out and feels realistic. Moreover, the dark lexis of decay supported by the use of mould and mushrooms creates some startling imagery that only grows more terrifying and sinister as the story goes on – this was a very unique take on the traditional gothic ideals of death and decay, the unusual motifs and repeated imagery was inherently dark and gothic but also a fresh take on the gothic genre. It created a spine-tingling atmosphere that was unsettling and eerie and incorporated them into a complex story that was fascinating and disturbing. The parrying of beauty and horror is done perfectly in this book.
This book is told from the third person perspective (my favourite) using Noemi’s point of view. I, surprisingly, adored this perspective. Noemi is a beautiful socialite, loves fashion and is very spontaneous, usually women like this are written as airheads who make infuriating decisions BUT not in this book. Noemi is very feminine but she is smart, determined and headstrong and I loved this portrayal and it made her narrative much more interesting.
This was a very effective perspective because Noemi has the smallest frame of knowledge – she doesn’t know anything about what is going on and gains knowledge from multiple sources as the story goes on, it is very natural and adds to the tension of the story. It is, as a whole, well paced, the slow build up with the increase in horrifying events works wonderfully and creates the perfect creepy atmosphere that never falls into a lull. This perspective is also effective because we get to see a specific side to each of the other characters present, their reactions and interactions with Noemi are interesting (and disturbing) and creates a tense dynamic as the story goes on.
I also adored the almost flashback/dream style that was used frequently throughout the story. This was a very interesting addition to the story and added another layer to the plot – it allowed us insight into the past without spoiling any of the reveals and instead added more intrigue and horror to the story.
I adored Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing style, I adored the descriptions, the perfect gothic atmosphere, the progressive increase in horror, the interesting perspective and piecemeal reveal of information. It maintains the perfect pace, tension, horror and dynamic between characters.
— Refreshing Take On The Gothic Genre And Very Unique —
The Story/Plot: So we follow Noemi as she is sent to check on her newly married cousin, Catalina, after she sends a letter suggesting she is need of some help because she is being poisoned, though Noemi’s father believes she needs psychiatric help. However, when Noemi arrives at High Place things start to take a sinister turn, creepy occurrences and strange behaviours of the household members makes Noemi suspicious and only Francis, the awkward youngest son seems to be on her side.
This story was a WILD RIDE. It was an incredibly refreshing take on the gothic genre and very unique despite using common gothic motifs. This story managed to be a shocking, twist filled horror full of creepy reveals and disturbing characters. Right from the start a disturbing premise is set up, Catalina’s letter suggest either psychological hauntings or actual sinister intentions so immediately we get both a physical and psychological aspect of horror to build upon.
The story then get’s increasingly more disturbing and creepy after Noemi’s arrival at High Place, an isolated mansion. The patriarch of the household is obsessed with discussing Eugenics (immediately horrifying and creepy as hell, the man is vile). And this is only the start, as Noemi herself begins to experience the haunting’s Catalina described and notices the increasingly strange behaviours of High Place’s inhabitants. Florence insists on maintaining insane and strict household rules, growing mad at Noemi for the smallest behavious. Virgil goes from seemingly calm and handsome to cruel and creepy, and Noemi is utterly alone and isolated.
As the story goes on the horror becomes much more obvious and gory, the big twists and reveals are disturbing and shocking and really just outright creepy, the tension and build up to this reveal is well worth it because the pay off is excellently done. The ending was honestly brilliant and chilling as we see how past event’s link with the current ones.
There is a romance that runs through the story, parts of the story are sexual and disturbing but there is also a more innocent love that runs through it and is a slow progressing relationship. This, however, doesn’t take away from the story at all and instead adds to the plot and creates another layer of suspicion as to whose side he is on.
This story was just amazing, it has the isolated, beautiful, creepy landscape with a mansion run by patriarchal men who appear to be trapping the woman. It has the beautiful Gothic architecture paired with the chilling decay and household hauntings, graveyard scenes with mists/fog, and the running motif of mould and mushrooms that add to the atmosphere. An incredibly female lead who is smart and headstrong, and an intriuging play on the idea of doppelgangers and ghosts. I loved everything about this story, and the 1950’s Mexican setting was beautifully done.
I can’t say much more on the plot without spoilers but it is a fantastically terrifying story that will truly chill you.
— Complex, Dynamic, Intriguing Or Disturbing —
The Characters: The cast of characters is decent, with a small cast taking over the majority of the story. Each character is very complex, dynamic, intriguing or disturbing – they all fit perfectly into the gothic tropes and yet managed to distort them into something new and entertaining. The relationships between the characters are interesting and each relationship has a vastly different dynamic. (Representation includes: Latinx main characters and side characters.)
Noemi. As I said before Noemi is a beautiful, fashion conscious, socialite who embraces her feminine side but is also incredibly clever, determined and headstrong with an interest in anthropology (It was interesting to see how this came into play in the story, as a sociology lover there is a lot of overlap and it was intriguing to see it play out). Noemi is clever and loyal to those she loves and is determined to help Catalina, I really loved her character and found her development over the course of the story to be brilliant. I also loved how she wasn’t afraid to stand up to those (the men) who were trying to be oppressive, initially she seems a little flaky jumping from interest to interest, but as the story goes on you realise she just want’s to be independent and have the freedom to enjoy her life and find her own passions and I loved that. Noemi is a fiery character and a brilliant one.
Catalina. Catalina is your ‘damsel in distress’ character, the one Noemi is out to save and for the most part Catalina’s character seems kind of subdued (this is intentional and works very well.) She is sick and sleeps a lot, in her lucid moments you get a glimpse into the dreamer she was, a girl obsessed with fairytales and stories, kind, sweet and gentle. But, she believes she is being poisoned and haunted, her delusional state is a little more unsettling and worries Noemi. As the story goes on though you realise that Catalina is not your typical helpless damsel and in fact she is quite clever and logical, as well as determined in her own way and her own strength proves to be admirable as more is revealed.
Francis. Francis is the youngest son and inhabitant at High Place, physically he differs from his family being traditionally less handsome and much more subdued. He seems sweet though, and he appears to genuinely care for Noemi and tries to help her. However, he lives at High Place so I never fully trusted him, but his character as a whole I liked and found interesting – he was also the only character from High Place I ever had any sympathy for. He can come across as a little bland but his character is more about nuance and bears a striking contrast to Howard and Virgil making his subdued character much more interesting due to his difference.
Virgil. Virgil is a strange man. He presents as calm, handsome and charming, maintains a neutral tone in arguments to belittle the validity of others and to appear reasonable but the man is creepy and cruel when he gets angry. I won’t say to much more about him in order to avoid spoilers but the more the story went on the more I disliked this character, this of course made him compelling in the role he fills.
Howard. If Virgil is bad Howard is the devil. His introduction to Noemi is a discussion on eugenics and he actively points out her ‘darker’ complexion, as though it makes her different – the man is creepy and vile. Right from the start Howard comes off as a disturbing character and this only gets worse as the story goes on, he is a compelling creepy patriarch – but he definitely is chilling. Again I don’t want to spoil the story so I can’t say much more about him but I hated him – which of course means he was written wonderfully!
Florence. Ok so all High Place residents are creepy and I didn’t like them so naturally Florence is another character who is a tad creepy and one I did not like. She is stoic and dislikes Noemi’s very presence but gets incredibly infuriated if you break the rules of the house, she is dedicated to Howard and his wishes. She does concede to Virgil and Howard’s demands and never questions them but it doesn’t stop her from irritating Noemi. As the story goes on she is another that becomes increasingly disturbing.
There is a lot that is explored over the course of this story in terms of themes from isolation and independence/identity to the toxic belief of superiority based on ones physical attributes. Every theme is explored brilliantly.
Overall. So in case you hadn’t guessed, I LOVED this book. It has everything I want from the gothic genre, but twisted into something new and refreshing, it hits each category in gothic motifs without being over the top and has excellent characters and phenomenal female leads.The story is unique and horrifying both psychologically and supernaturally whilst also including gore and natural fears. I loved everything about this book from the writing to the content.
This was an excellent gothic read and I would definitely recommend it to fans of the gothic genre, particularly if you can handle gore, love strong feminine female leads and gorgeous gothic settings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Follow her on Twitter: @silviamg
I received an eARC of #MexicanGothic by @silviamg from #netgalley #Quercus @QuercusBooks in exchange for an honest review- and to be a part of a blogtour organised by @Millsreid11 @JoFletcherBooks