A Stranger’s Guide: Charlotte Platt
Reviewed By Jamie Goecker
Lately I’ve worked my way through several books that venture off from the path of horror. We all know that horror stories can contain elements of any other genre, and therein lies much of the variety and beauty of the genre. When I’m speaking about a departure from what I usually read in the genre, I’m referring to stories in which horror is present, but it takes a backseat to a more heavily present genre, such as sci-fi or fantasy. That’s the case with A STRANGER’S GUIDE. It’s described as an urban fantasy, which is definitely new to me, and I was intrigued by this one upon seeing the cover and reading the summary.
I struggled a bit to make an initial connection with this story, and felt that it was a slow read for me overall. There are several reasons for this, but before I touch on those, I’d like to discuss what I enjoyed about it. First off, this book is full of magical and supernatural beings. In addition to the cast of human characters, the reader encounters a whole slew of creatures from another realm. Most of these characters present as human to those who do not possess magical abilities, but the characters who do have magic are able to see them as they truly are, and their physical descriptions and interactions made for some of the most entertaining parts of the story. I won’t name them all—these beings are best discovered by the reader along the way without spoilers.
Each chapter of this story begins with a journal entry from the 1800s, from a character who lived within Glasgow at the time and had encounters with all of these supernatural beings. At the end of each journal entry we’re sent back to present day and experience the story through the viewpoint of Carter, who is seeking his missing sister while trying to deny his own magic, at least at the start of the adventure. I enjoyed this chapter setup and found it to be something unique and entertaining within the story. Other aspects I enjoyed were the diversity of the characters, their travels within the city, and the detailed and vivid descriptions of both the setting and the creatures encountered along the way.
There was some building suspense, but it took until at least halfway through this story for me to become invested and begin to empathize with Carter and the other main players. At this point, Carter did start to grow on me, but I have to say that I enjoyed the supernatural creatures the most, and my favorite was perhaps one of the most feared characters—an ancient deity of sorts named Dex. The interactions between Carter and Dex were some of my favorite in the story, and I did enjoy seeing the development of some friendships he made along the way. The lead-up was just a bit too long for my liking, and I found myself setting the story aside too often.
Overall, this has a solid premise, interesting characters, and an intriguing setting. It really did gain speed during the last half or so, but the initial build-up took too long for my personal taste without a connection forming between myself and the characters or the storyline. I really needed that spark from the get-go in order to call it a favorite read. I’m sure that there are other readers who will find this to be a hit and have a hard time putting it down, especially if you’re interested in stories with urban exploration, and heavy elements of dark fantasy. I would be interested in reading more from this author in the future, and by the end of this I was curious as to what might come next for the characters, so I’d probably read a sequel if one ever came about.
A Stranger’s Guide
Being able to see what you shouldn’t is useful, sometimes.
Carter Brooks is new to Glasgow and looking for his sister, Sarah, who went missing three weeks ago. He must rely on the help of her friends, mentor, and the unusual diary she was investigating to track her down.
As he navigates the supernatural beings within the city and discovers the life Sarah was hiding from him, Carter is obliged to use the gifts he’s rejected to uncover why someone would want to hurt her.
This drags him into the path of an old and hungry god, who abducts Carter in his sleep to offer help at a steep price. With the promise of continued interference and the taunting reminder that Sarah’s time is running out, Carter must choose who to trust and what to believe before he loses her forever.
Jamie Goecker is a lifelong night owl and horror lover from Michigan. Her love of spooky things began as a child, when she first noticed that other kids were scared of the movies she treasured. Films such as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Return to Oz fascinated her and sparked her imagination. Then came the Goosebumps and Fear Street book series by R.L. Stine, which ignited her love of horror fiction. Outside of her day job, she devotes as much time as possible to reading, reviewing, and her other love—listening to music. When she’s not engaged in those activities, she’s likely cooking, hunting for vintage paperbacks, daydreaming, or exploring the gorgeous local scenery (while also taking photos of books).