“An atmospheric and haunting tale of friendship, family and fate that readers will find equally bewitching and exciting.”
Gaby Triana is the bestselling author of 20 novels for teens and adults, including Wake the Hollow (Entangled: Teen, 2016), the Haunted Florida series (Island of Bones, River of Ghosts, City of Spells, all published by Alienhead Press in 2018), and Paradise Island (Permuted Press, 2020), to name just a few. She has also written numerous short stories and hosts a horror-based YouTube channel called The Witch Haunt. She enjoys writing about witchy powers, ghosts, haunted places, and abandoned locations, which is just as well as all play a part in her latest release.
Welcome to the Sunlake Springs Resort, a gigantic and abandoned building which has served many purposes throughout its existence, from sanitorium to health spa, hotel to hospital. It has been dogged by many unexplained disasters and unfortunate events, but investors and interested parties still find themselves drawn to this particular area of Florida long-rumoured to have naturally-occurring healing powers.
One person drawn to the resort is 18-year-old Valentina Callejas, a precocious teenager from a strictly catholic Cuban-American household, who is still reeling from the loss of her father and finds herself oppressed by her overtly-religious grandmother and easily-manipulated mother. Having spent all of her life trying to live up to the impossible standards expected by her family, where her grandfather was the leader of their own church, she finds the courage within herself to finally stand up to her domineering grandmother and follow her heart. She drives to the home of a step-sister with whom she has communicated but hasn’t yet met, eager for some space and a welcoming shoulder on which to lean. But, thanks to an adventurous spirit and open mind, she discovers so much more.
Vale, as she is known to her friends, is a character rich in personality and immediately likeable. Most people have felt the pressure to live up to the expectations of a demanding family, to one extent or another. We are instantly sympathetic toward Vale when we see her shipped off to a church retreat she is dreading, not least because of the memory of a despicable act by one of the male members of the church at the last retreat. Surrounded by family and friends who are less interested in how she feels and what she believes in, and more interested in forcing her to be the person they want her to be, we root for her to break free. She longs to broaden her horizons and has already experimented with tarot while feeling drawn to other religions and beliefs. She also alludes to a sixth sense whenever she touches an object or person, the ability to experience visions.
Triana handles the foreshadowing with an expert touch, teasing hints and details about Vale and her abilities, although not fully realising them until the explosive finale. Thanks to the mysteries surrounding her father’s past and his other family, as well as the diverse supporting cast, the reader is fully invested in Vale’s story. Through her spiritual awakening among her new group of friends and what they are trying to achieve, we see that, sometimes, the family we choose is better than the family into which we are born. Crow, Wilky, Mori and Fae are more than simply hippies or free spirits; they are trying to make the world a better place through a ritual, and Vale is the missing piece of their puzzle. But, naturally, she proves to be so much more, and the growing friendship between them all makes for great reading.
The resort is a truly gothic setting, with its large, haunted rooms, and the mysterious group of friends welcoming in the outsider, while keeping some secrets. Triana builds the dread as we accompany Vale on her exploration of the resort and uncover those dark secrets that intertwine the history of Sunlake with tragic events buried in Vale’s family’s past. This isn’t the Florida sought out by tourists; Triana has a special ability to bring rural Florida to life and give it a sinister style both unexpected and refreshing. We follow Vale from a teenager struggling to find her place in the world, to a powerful young woman wielding unimaginable power in the face of a terrifying threat. Triana crafts Vale’s story using all of the abilities she has mastered throughout her previous work and delivers an atmospheric and haunting tale of friendship, family and fate that readers will find equally bewitching and exciting.
Publisher: Alienhead Press
eBook: 202 (pps.)
Release Date: 17 February 2021
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