ChiZine Publications is one of the best in the business. If a book is published by ChiZine, then I know that it will at least be good and could very possibly be great. “Wild Fell” by Michael Rowe is a recent release from ChiZine that I have had my eye on since it was released and I finally got a chance to dive into the novel.
Jameson (Jamie) Browning had been touched by the supernatural when he was younger although he does not remember any of it. He had a friend, Amanda, who lived in a mirror in his room and Jamie thought that she was trapped inside the mirror until he realized that she could release her power on the world if she chose to. As he got older, he forgot all about Amanda. Even when his father started succumbing to dementia due to Alzheimer’s and mentioning a daughter that he had never had named Amanda, Jamie still did not make the connection. This was not surprising considering that Jamie’s marriage had recently ended, his father’s health was failing, and an accident had caused Jamie to have to give up work due to a traumatic head injury. Jamie knew pain and loss. Jamie had been touched by the supernatural. That may have been the appeal when he purchased an ancient house, Wild Fell, sight unseen when it went on the market. Wild Fell also knew pain and loss and had been touched by the supernatural as well, as he would soon find out.
Wild Fell was built by a politician on an island named after his family, Blackmore Island, in the 19th century. The house had withstood the violence of the Canadian environment from without and the scandalous happenings within. The people of the nearest town, Alvinia, looked on the island and the house with a kind of awe mixed with dread. They knew that something lurked within those ancient walls that occasionally reached out to touch one of their own. What no one knows is what the strange connection is that exists between Wild Fell and Jameson Browning.
“Wild Fell” is not really a horror novel but it is haunting nonetheless. The story is kind of difficult to classify although it does have strong ties to Gothic ghost stories to the point that it made me feel as if I was reading a book that was written a century ago even though the writing and the story are not dated at all. “Wild Fell” manages to be fresh and new while at the same time seeming familiar. This allows the reader to go into the story and just get lost within the pages of the book.
“Wild Fell” does not have the types of scares that cause the reader to jump and the heart to skip a beat. Instead, the terror of the novel is the kind that burrows into the reader and chills the soul. The supernatural is present in the novel but that is not really the scary thing. This is a novel that, at its heart, is about loss and the haunting that loss brings into everyone’s life. Not everyone has experienced the supernatural (or even believes in it). Everyone has, however, experienced loss and the feelings of hopelessness and regret that the loss can engender in the heart and soul for a lifetime to come. The supernatural in this book serves more as window dressing than as the main point of the story. Rowe knows that the reader may be afraid of things that go bump in the night but that the reader is terrified of the dark corners of the soul where loss makes its home. It is the light that “Wild Fell” shines on these dark places that make it all the more powerful than just another ghost story. "Wild Fell" captivates the reader with the subtlety of a last breath and carries the reader along with the rhythm of a breaking heart as it evolves more than progresses to its stunning conclusion.
I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and ChiZine Publications for this review copy. “Wild Fell” is available now.