The Hawley Book of the Dead written by Chrysler Szarlan [Review]

The Hawley Book of the Dead

Title: The Hawley Book of the Dead
Author: Chrysler Szarlan
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Date of Publication: 23 October 2014
Number of Pages: 352
Genre: General Fiction (adult)

Rating: 1 star

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone for making this title available

Summary: Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

Review: In the last few books, a theme of magic has been very clear. What is disappointing for me, is they have all fallen flat. I enjoy suspending my disbelief. I am completely willing to be gullible and will believe the world placed before me but only if it feels strongly constructed and plausible. I realise ‘plausible’ might be a strange word to use when talking about suspending any preconceived ideas of what could happen in a world but it is correct. I will believe a town can exist that is full of magic and strange creatures etc. etc. but only if it feels a natural extension. This is where The Hawley Book of the Dead fails. I could not believe that this town existed or that any part of it could be in anyway possible.

After the initial pages where Reve shoots and kills her husband, it all seems to fall apart. There is an entity introduced called the Fetch. This entity should be terrifying but it doesn’t come close. For a creature sent to steal your soul it invokes very little fear. A Fetch is not the creature you believe is under your bed or in your cupboard. In fact, the Fetch is more like the demon Gachnar in Buffy. All noise and no substance.


The Hawley Book of the Dead, on a whole, suffers from a lack of substance. The book did not feel as though it had been completely planned or thought out.  The synopsis above gives a reader a better read than the actual book.

It is also incredibly dishonest for this book to be compared to The Night Circus. There are no parallels I can draw between these two books. The Night Circus was a completely real world and I enjoyed turning each and every page. The Hawley Book of the Dead was tedious and dull. It’s a real shame that something in this book failed to materialise as was obviously envisaged by the author because there is a really good story trying to get out. I realise that some of my fellow readers found this story but it seems a fairly even split between those who found the cookie at the end of the crumbs and those of us who are still lost.



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