The Nightshade Cabal is a fast-paced journey, filled with magic, mischief, and mystery. It takes the reader through some of 1800s Nova Scotia’s most hidden pockets and secret activities, as seen through the eyes of enigmatic sleuth Isaac Barrow.
Overall, I enjoyed this debut narrative, and the characters of Isaac Barrow and Emily Skye especially. However, for me it was lacking key elements, and for that reason I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.
What Worked for Me
The blurb and initial chapters instantly drew me in. Carolan’s vision of Nova Scotia during the latter part of the nineteenth century provided a fresh perspective and the potential for a compelling world in which magic was known and at play. I was intrigued by the notion of the Nightshade Cabal in particular, and expected it to feature quite heavily the more the novel progressed. The magic system and steampunk world Carolan crafted were also impressive and interesting—having not read a steampunk novel before, I enjoyed this aspect and the way Carolan wove it into the historical setting. Narrative voice and style were well presented, too, and the characters distinct, adding their own flavors to the piece.
Isaac Barrow was the most well rounded character—unsurprisingly, since as the protagonist, readers were expected to resonate with him. However, my favorite character was actually Jonathan Eddings, his friend, who it’s hinted at in the end has kept some secrets from Barrow as well (and could perhaps lend himself to his own novel later?).
What Didn’t Work for Me
While there was a lot of action, good bits of dialogue, well-written detailed exposition, and memorable and diverse characters, I finished the book wanting more. The two cases Barrow is solving in the piece connect quickly and resolve themselves too easily, in my mind. I wanted more mystery to solve throughout, and for the Nightshade Cabal thread to be more fully unwound and present more problems for Barrow, and provide more answers for the reader.
That said, I do hope that further books about Barrow surface in the future. I believe Carolan has great potential to fashion Barrow into an iconic figure, the world he created to be more fully traveled, and the Nightshade Cabal's presence in it more dominating and troublesome for all.
** Thank you to The Parliament House for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. **