Rating: 3 🌈
Based on the description, Obsidian Island easily fits into the historical gothic horror genre that’s wonderfully scary stuff to read. Especially if it’s well written, with a subliminal message of dread building along with suspenseful actions flowing through the storylines. Coming from the author of the wonderful Flos Magicae Universe stories, I had high expectations.
Obsidian Island comes close as it contains so many of the classic elements of the genre. There’s a shipwreck, a mysterious island full of wildly unimaginable plants and animals never seen anywhere before, and disquieting dreams that invade the minds of those within the island’s territory.
Obsidian Island’s biggest weakness lies not in its storylines but in one of its main characters. That’s the explorer biologist Emery Lapwing.
Emery is part of a crew of college friends that are sailing together on The Achillean, a frigate captained by a man he’s adored secretly for years, James Rawlings. Along with them are a ship’s doctor, Deaton, a man with his own demons, and a baker, Lucian.
There’s a considerable amount of unannounced romance and passion for the people within that quartet of men, more so given the nebulous time frame of 1800ish England. Definitely when same sex relations could see you imprisoned.
But the characters don’t come with much history or depth of personality. That’s a issue because it’s hard to care about them, especially when the author has set one up to be such a idiot.
Lapwing consistently runs towards danger here. It doesn’t matter that his fellow shipmates/friends are telling him it feels wrong or something isn’t right, off he charges. He disregards every type of warnings that come his way. There’s ominous dreams, obvious and subtle portent signs of death, even when a bird tries to pull him back to the shoreline away from the weird interior, does he listen? No. Also the bird is the size of a human and befriends him immediately. Huh.
Instead its into a deep, dark, unexplored cave when the tides are incoming. Or run to a looming tree that’s blood red and smells of death.
Honestly, the author’s endowed Emery with the common sense and survival skills of a kumquat.
As the others follow him into increasingly horrifying situations, only towards the end does it enter his mind that perhaps he’s to blame for every wrong move, and he’s got everything all wrong. Ya think?
I’m not sure why Powell’s narrative is so focused on such a character. He’s not one to connect with. The poor decisions he makes puts everyone in near death situations that he makes little apologies for until the last moments.
The romances, such as they are or can be for that era when it’s illegal, come briefly towards the end of the book and consist of chaste kisses.
James, Deaton, even the baker, Lucian , are far more relatable characters then Emery in their emotional reaction to the island, the strange things they see, and the ominous scenes before them.
There’s a ludicrous element with a sea monster. But perhaps that’s in keeping with the island.
The rating teetered between 2.5 and 3 here. Powell’s imaginative elements on the island, the butterflies and caterpillar idea was intriguing, but something was lost in the animal carryover. There’s a hole in the process there when you catch it.
Then there’s the ending. Powell didn’t stick the ending, imo.
It involved Emery, of course. He’s not just an explorer but a biologist. So supposedly he knows about seeds , water, reproduction, destruction.
Or maybe he’s just a another TSTL character. Doing TSTL things.
Like he did the entire story.
Obsidian Island by Arden Powell isn’t one of those stories I’m recommending unless you’re a fan of this author or a die hard collector of this genre.
Great cover though.
The storm should have killed them. The tropical paradise where they wash ashore just might.
Emery Lapwing is only interested in two things: exploring the natural world, and pretending that he’s not in love with his closest friend, Captain James Rawlings of The Achillean. The first is easy: James will sail him anywhere he wants to go. The second, Emery has been doing for the past ten years.
Emery’s routine is shattered when he and James are swept overboard in a lightning storm. When the storm passes, they find themselves on the glittering pink beach of an unmapped island where no one has ever walked before.
The island seems like the perfect place to recuperate as they wait for rescue, brimming with miraculous new species to be discovered. And a thousand miles from civilization, it’s all too easy for Emery to imagine kissing James. In London, it was unthinkable—a kiss between two men meant the gallows if they were caught. On the island, it means risking James’ friendship when they most need each other to survive.
But attraction isn’t the only peril they face. The island hides a dangerous secret, and James and Emery aren’t the only castaways falling under its spell. Monstrous creatures stalk their every move and something is taking root in their dreams, luring them deeper into the island’s deadly, tropical heart.
The island offers Emery everything he has ever dreamed of. But all dreams require a sacrifice. And the island is hungry.
Unless it’s noted, all books reviewed have been purchased by the reviewer