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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall 
by Elizabeth Hand  
Open Road Integrated Media  
Mystery & Thrillers
Nominated for the Locus and Shirley Jackson awards.

Windhollow Faire, a fictive sixties folk band, decide to hole up in Wylding Hall, a large house where the band planned to practice for their second album. Partially, they are trying to distance themselves from the death [suicide? murder?] of their lead female singer, Ariana. Her loss is a major blow as her voice and looks brought attention to the band. Julian Blake, lead male singer and songwriter, had been in love with her, to the jealousy of Lesley Stansalclass, the new female lead.

The problem comes when the band members realize that they are not the only residents in Wylding Hall. Maybe the only living ones...

The story is told by the former members of Windhollow Faire and their producer, photographer, and critic. This is the highlight of this novella/short novel. It creates a pitch-perfect voice of the rockumentary. Hand captures the feel of the genre so well, this alone is worthy of reading, acclaim, and award attention.

With so many voices shaping the story, especially a tale from years past, one might expect more contradiction. However, with so many voices, if they had contradicted one another, the reader might have wound up thoroughly disoriented. So it's just as well that contradiction was not a feature. Plus, one assumes that the material in a rockumentary has been shaped by a film's editor to tell a cohesive story.

It takes a little while to come upon the speculative elements. If you've read Elizabeth Hand's other works, this may come as no surprise. Wylding Hall, when she does it explore it, has a spooky if magical atmosphere. The horror aspect is subdued, leaving the reader with a prescient photograph and the mystery of one missing [dead?] band member. All of which adds up to the most famous accidental album of their era.

This one of the best novellas published last year. Well worth the price.

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