Book Review: Somber Island by T. Lynne Tolles

Somber Island
by T. Lynne Tolles
Published: Troll Publishing
Publisher: December 17, 2010
ISBN: 1456351818

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Phoebe MacIntire, who is a servant to her father and sisters in her own house in Scotland in 1855, is an ordinary girl, with no big dreams for the future. She's perfectly happy in her humble life, with her cot in the basement and her little garden in the backyard. But when her father up and sends her to Newfoundland to be the lifelong servant to Lord Jacobs, she finds her life gets turned upside down.
Her journey across the Atlantic to her new home is long, scary and very unpleasant. When she arrives at the manor on a small island, she finds the beautiful place abandoned and only a note waits for her explaining her duties, the strange dietary requirements, and sleeping habits of her new master.
The very first night in her new home she's haunted in her dreams by a woman who clearly does not want her there and a strange blue-eyed man-wolf creature that follows the woman. Her dreams become more and more violent and mysteries start to be uncovered about a woman who was killed in a fire on the island, a creature that preys on anyone that comes to the island and a love story gone wrong that dates back over a hundred and twenty two years.
I had great hopes for this book back when I first set my eyes on it. The blood-red (the only "color" on an otherwise drab background) hair of the girl on the cover certainly caught my attention and the title made me think of deep mysteries and secrets and the girl would be in the center of it all. When I read the blurb, I was sold.

I quite liked how the story was started - it was gray, dark and somber - and set the tone and setting for the rest of the story. Although I would've liked it more if it was not too hurried.

The first few chapters described Phoebe's predicament in her own home which, reading it, was so similar to that of the heroine in Beauty and the Beast: the youngest daughter with two haughty, older sisters. The similarities paused there and took a turn with Cinderella: instead of a cruel stepmother, Phoebe had a cruel father who was partial to his older daughters because they were more beautiful and would certainly snag rich lords while Phoebe was lame and the reason they were poor; therefore, he made her their pitiful servant.

After that, we had a bit of Beauty and the Beast again when she was sold to a mysterious gentleman by her own father and she went to live on Somber Island. I know the heroine in Beauty and the Beast wasn't sold and she went to the castle to save her father but Phoebe's situation reminded me of the classic tale.

Being a servant in a huge house with a mysterious man for a Master had its perks since aside from doing basic housework and small, strange requests (such as the raw meat and glass of blood - I couldn't believe she didn't figure it out right away), she was decidedly free and had the run of the house. Of course having that freedom and the strange dreams brought to her by an equally strange and mad woman would set the ball rolling towards the supposed main plot of the story.

I would not utter the whole story here for I would just drag on and on. All I can say is that the story was too hurried for my own liking. The romance was just a snap although the characters spent many nights looking over their shoulders with coy gazes. The climax was anticlimactic.

The story could have been expounded and the characters could have been developed more. I repeat: the book had a great promise via imagery and plot premise and would've been a great book if it wasn't too clichéd and too hurried.



  1. I was just thinking about this book today--I have it and still need to get to it. Thanks for the honest review---I'll have to read it soon and see what I think!

  2. @ Little Miss Becky: Much as it pains me to write not-so-flowery words, I need to be honest with my feelings about particular things.

    I look forward to reading your review.


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