Cover of Lakesedge, featuring a woman in a white dress with red hair walking up a spooky staircase

About the Book

Title: Lakesedge (World at the Lake’s Edge #1)
Published: 2021

Cover Story: Turn Arrrrroooooound
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Gothic Fantasy
Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude x2, Secret Garden
Factor: Cliffhanger
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Intrigued

Content Warning: There are scenes of child abuse in the beginning of Lakesedge that might be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Turn Arrrrroooooound

There’s something very Phantom of the Opera about this cover, which likely makes no sense to anyone who knows the Phantom of the Opera better than me, which is definitely most people. But I’m sticking with that assertion. Also: Crimson Peak. Basically any gothic IP with a mysterious dude and pretty young woman. There’s a definite vibe.

The Deal: 

Violeta Graceling will do anything to keep her younger brother, Arien, safe. Including following him to a mysterious estate where Lord Rowan Sylvanan lives, a young man who rumoredly killed his entire family. Rowan wants Arien for his magic, to help cure the Corruption plaguing the land. Leta wants Rowan to promise that Arien won’t suffer in the attempt, which he can’t do. Leta thinks Rowan’s a monster … until she gets to know him. He might still be a monster, but there’s something else going on that changes Leta’s mind about the entire situation.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

Leta is a loving, stubborn, headstrong, loyal young woman. She’s dedicated to her brother to an almost detrimental amount, but there are reasons she’s so protective. (See Anti-Bonus Factor below.) She’s not immediately taken in by the villainous Lord Sylvanan; even when she feels that “spark” of interest, she doesn’t let his demeanor scare her away from speaking her truth. (And occasionally getting a sassy jab in.) While I’d try give her a BFF Charm almost immediately, it would take some time for me to work my way into her life and heart.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Rowan is young and beautiful and tortured—all of which appeal to Leta, even though she knows better. Their chemistry cannot be denied and eventually, the two fall into something that’s dangerous and might not end well, but common sense be damned.

At first, he’s hesitant and soft, like he still wants to leave me space to change my mind. But at this moment, I don’t want softness. I want fierceness and fire and incandescent surrender.

And then there’s the Lord Under, who Leta “hates” …

Talky Talk: Gothic Fantasy

If I had to use one word to describe this book, I would use the word “ominous.” Which is something I think all gothic novels have in common. There’s something going on under the surface or around the corner or in the shadows, and it’s not clear—sometimes even by the end of the book—if it’s good or evil. Clipstone does a great job of accentuating this feeling, even when describing something innocuous like an overgrown garden.

When I was here last, when I followed him through the dark, the garden was all silver and shadow. Now it’s lit faintly by the twilight, the air faded and otherworldly, like an illustration from the book he gave me. …

The orchard trees have spread from their ordered rows, and the flower beds are only tangles of dry grass. An endless bramble winds through it all, a sharp snarl of vine and thorn, leafless and bare.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude x2

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

Rowan is the mysterious young (and beautiful) lord of Lakesedge who makes Violeta both irrationally angry and heated (in that way), but he’s not the only MLD in this book. There’s also the mysterious (and beautiful, natch) Lord Under, a god figure who is basically the Hades of this universe. He’s 100% not someone you’d want to meet in a dark forest late at night, but there’s something about him that is undeniably appealing nonetheless.

Bonus Factor: Secret Garden

A pathway in a garden with a rounded terrace overhead

At one point, Rowan shows Leta to a walled-off garden where he and his brother used to play. He “gives” it to her for her own, and she’s extremely grateful for the gift. It doesn’t play a huge role in the book, but I just love the idea of secret gardens. Even with my brown thumb.

Factor: Cliffhanger

A man dressed all in black (Sylvester Stallone) clings to a cliff face

Reader beware—this is the first book in a duology, and this is definitely a “first half” kind of book.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

The woman who takes Leta and Arien in when they’re found wandering at the edge of a forest—a woman known only as Mother—is a truly horrible person. When Arien’s magic gets out of control, she punishes them both through physical means. I’m very glad they get away from her, even if at first they think they’re just trading one monster for another.

Relationship Status: Intrigued

I first read you back in the Great FYA Website Dearth, Book, and I liked you then. I think I might like you even more now. But I’m still reserving judgment. I don’t want to get burned. Or corrupted, in this case.

Literary Matchmaking

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1)

The main character in Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series also goes to live in a castle with a monster lurking about.

This Monstrous Thing

Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing is another gothic novel that plays with familiar themes and stories.

Lore Olympus: Volume One (Lore Olympus Volumes #1)

For a more colorful—but no less emotional—take on Hades, check out Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Lakesedge is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.