Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Review: Lute by Jennifer Thorne

by Jennifer Marie Thorne
Release Date: October 4, 2022
2022 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 274 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250826084
Genre:Fiction / Horror 
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

Lute and its inhabitants are blessed, year after year, with good weather, good health, and good fortune. They live a happy, superior life, untouched by the war that rages all around them. So it’s only fair that every seven years, on the day of the tithe, the island’s gift is honored.

Nina Treadway is new to The Day. A Florida girl by birth, she became a Lady through her marriage to Lord Treadway, whose family has long protected the island. Nina’s heard about The Day, of course. Heard about the horrific tragedies, the lives lost, but she doesn’t believe in it. It's all superstitious nonsense. Stories told to keep newcomers at bay and youngsters in line.

Then The Day begins.
My Thoughts
Lute is one of those books that I really wanted to like more than I did, but I just struggled to get into it as I found the characters to be lacklustre. I think the marketing team did a disservice to the book as well as they gave away too much information about the book in its description leaving no room for the reader to figure out any secret in the story thus reducing any subtle build up that you would experience while reading.  

First of all, my favourite character was Matthew, the lighthouse keeper, who kept to himself, and seemed to have this big secret.  He seemed to dislike Nina which immediately put him in my good graces and I wanted to know why.  Plus, like I said, he seemed to have a secret, something that I found intriguing as no one else seemed to have one.  Unfortunately, I just wasn't invested in the other characters, including Nina. And here's why. For seven years she's lived on this island and heard about the Day and how it brings prosperity, but has also heard about the tragedies and doesn't question a thing about it? She just went along with it for almost seven years, clueless, subservient to her husband and his whims, and suddenly she wants to grow a pair and confront him? Nope, didn't work for me at all. To be honest, while I wasn't a fan of the husband and his sudden abusive tendencies, I did appreciate his growing obsession with getting off the island and the reasons for doing so. Plus, I think I am nosy and would have wanted to learn all the superstitions about my new home as I would have found them intriguing. Overall, I just didn't feel much empathy for the characters as I didn't think they were well-written and their personalities were all over the place, written for convenience rather than growth.
I was initially intrigued by the folk lore elements in the story and definitely felt the Final Destination elements in this story, (having just watched the first film in over a decade) and appreciate the random selection of victims which should have made it that much more creepy and tense.  Unfortunately, by the time the events started happening, I hadn't developed any empathy with any of the characters so I didn't really care who died or who didn't.  It just became a predictable story line, with Nina at the center to save the day, naturally being the only person in a millenia who can figure out what the island needs. 

The plot has this weird war going on, and it took me a couple of chapters to understand it wasn't WWII as they were using current technology. I didn't really understand the purpose of the war as it didn't have a relevance to the plot other than make Nina, an American, an enemy? I don't know, but it was silly.  Watching Nina interact with the townspeople after realizing she was stuck on the island was a highlight simply because I was curious about the people who were left, not because I developed an interest in Nina. Her complete lack of curiosity in anyone and anything actually drove me nuts from the first page as I just couldn't relate.  And there's the completely unbelievable romance that happens in the middle of the books. What? 
Lute is one of those books that simply didn't work for me. The concept was intriguing and I loved the idea of a story intertwined with folk lore, but there were a lot of inconsistencies within the plot and the characters lacked development.  And while a slow burn doesn't typically bother me, it never really stepped up to that level of tenseness and creepiness that would have made the reading experience interesting and exciting.  However, I would read another novel by this author as I am curious to see what she will do next, but I found this one to be predictable and flat.