The Edge of Eternity
Amanda Stevens weaves a creepy tale about a marriage under siege by forces both living and dead in The Edge of Eternity. The second book in the Mists of Fernhaven series (the first is B.J. Daniels’ When Twilight Comes), it serves up some good chills, even if it’s too uneven to be entirely satisfying.
Paul and Elizabeth Blackstone were once a happily married couple, until the night their young son Damon was killed in a car accident. In the year and a half since then, Elizabeth has lived in a fog, wracked with grief. Sometimes she has the feeling that someone is watching her, even when there’s no one around. Other times she hears the sound of a child playing in Damon’s room, only to find no one there when she goes inside. Meanwhile, she and Paul have grown apart, until he seems more a stranger than her husband. She finally decides she needs to make a new life for herself away from all the painful memories and asks him for a divorce. In return, Paul asks her to accompany him to the Fernhaven Hotel for the weekend, hoping for one last chance to heal their marriage.
Seventy years ago, a fire swept through the hotel during its opening night festivities. The ghosts of those who died that night are rumored to still walk the grounds. Now rebuilt, the hotel is a beautiful place, but it’s also a dangerous one for the troubled couple. Paul’s secretary arrives, stoking Elizabeth’s fears that he’s having an affair with her. Elizabeth’s business partner, also in attendance, is acting suspiciously as well. Then there’s Roland Latimer, a mysterious man who only Elizabeth seems to see. He’s either a ghost or a figment of her tortured imagination. Either way, he begins to lead her down a dangerous path that Paul desperately tries to save her from traveling.
The author serves up a number of unsettling moments along the way, especially when she leads the reader to question whether Elizabeth really is in her right mind. The gaslighting scenes are nicely off-kilter, making them that much creepier. There were several times I found myself genuinely unnerved by what was happening to her. Stevens is no stranger to this type of gothic-tinged tale, and her writing is appropriately moody, with some fitting atmospheric touches. The Fernhaven Hotel continues to be a juicy setting for this type of story, even if I once again felt it could have been used more.
However, the book gets off to a slow start that it never quite overcomes. More important, in spite of the heavy focus on the characters’ angst, their pain is never as moving and emotional as it should be. That seems strange, since we’re talking about two people who’ve lost their only child and Stevens has written a number of very emotional reads in the past. I think the problem may be that author spends more time telling the reader about their grief than showing it, which keeps the reader at a distance instead of making us feel it ourselves. Paul and Elizabeth are both somewhat sympathetic, but their characters aren’t developed much beyond their grief. It really is all there is to them, and not until the ending does the emotion of their loss really make an impact. As a result, the final pages are very poignant and effective in a way much of the story should be, but isn’t.
As with the first book in the series, there’s too much focus on the earthly elements at the cost of the paranormal ones. The human threats really can’t compare to the otherworldly dangers, yet Stevens spends much more time on Elizabeth’s fears about “the other woman” than she does developing Latimer and his motives. The bickering between Paul and Elizabeth about his secretary grows tiresome quickly. Meanwhile, key questions about the mysterious Latimer are left unanswered, and barely hinted at, for too long. It would have been more effective if they’d been answered somewhat earlier, so the truth could have an impact and the author could build some suspense around how the characters will defeat the menace he represents. Instead, they don’t know who and how dangerous he is for too long, diluting his impact on the story. The answers come so late that the climax seems rushed, as the story races to its end. Even so, he is a scary villain, especially once those answers are finally revealed. Once again, the ending is the most effective part of the story in this respect too.
The Edge of Eternity has enough chilling moments and unsettling scenes that I’d grade it ever-so-slightly above average, especially for the ending. Readers hungry for a spooky gothic-flavored read may well find it worth a look. However, I finished it with the impression that it could, and should, have been better overall than it was.