The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox – ARC Review!

With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended. With nothing to keep her in London since losing her brother in the Great War, she warily makes her way to her new home.

The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.  

Rumours swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the centre of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.

Ivy Radcliffe doesn’t know what she’s signing up for when she signs on the dotted line to become Lady Hayworth, but what she does know that life as a Lady in Yorkshire has to be better than her one of poverty in London. But Blackwood Abbey is a foreboding sight, and the servants manners leave much to be desired. However, there is one room that, despite warnings to stay away, makes Ivy feel she could call this place home… The Library. Drawn to it’s duty shelves filled with both strange and familiar texts, she finally feels a little at home. But she also senses a presence in the library, one that flits between the shelves, and disappears whenever Ivy gets up the nerve to look. She knows the rumours surrounding this place, about the Mad Monk and the hauntings, the previous owners meeting untimely deaths, and at first Ivy chalks it all up to nothing but gossip, but as the hauntings grow more sinister and Ivy starts to loose herself, she will have to dive headfirst into the history surrounding Blackwood manor and reclaim her story, before it vanishes into the Library forever.

I buddy read this with Susan over at Novel Lives (review) and we both ended up loving it. The Last Heir to Blackwood Library had the perfect blend of Gothic/horror/fantasy and we both devoured it. The story is told from the POV of Ivy, a young woman who lost all of her family in the War and suddenly finds herself inheriting an estate in Yorkshire. She’s a brilliant character, just the right amount of feisty and stubborn but she’s also, in parts, an unreliable narrator (I can’t say why because of spoilers.) As the story progresses she starts to loose those aspects of herself, becoming more withdrawn and a mere ghost of a previous self, but she is still someone willing to fight for herself, her story, as well as others, and I thoroughly enjoyed following her on her journey.

Alongside Ivy, the story follows the servants from Blackwood Abbey Mr and Mrs Hewitt, Butler and Housekeeper of the Abbey, Ralph the Driver & Arthur Mabry another estate owner in the area who welcomes Ivy to Yorkshire. Thanks to Fox keeping our side cast tight knit we get to spend plenty of time with them, allowing us to root for the ones we like and wish nasty things on the others. I will say that Fox does a master job of keeping us on our toes when it comes to who to trust. All the characters give Ivy differing information, little drips of it, but never enough to know who might be telling us the truth.

Fox’s writing style and storytelling made for one atmospheric read. It’s wondrously Gothic, with some horror elements and a bit of fantasy thrown in for good measure. There’s so much about this book I want to shout about, mainly about the Library, but I can’t because of spoilers and it is killing me. Suffice to say, if you’ve always liked the idea of an almost living library, one that becomes a character in of itself, then you need to pick this book up. Fox brings Blackwood Abbey as a whole, but especially the Library, effortlessly to life thanks not only to following Ivy’s story, but also learning about the History of the Abbey from other characters. It’s got a cult filled with people who think they deserve something simply because of their lot in life, and is wondrously feminist in parts.

I will admit that, for the start of the book, I wasn’t sure where the story was going, and the pacing was slightly off in parts, but Fox’s lyrical and immersive writing ensured I stayed glued to the pages never the less. Her execution of the plot twists was exceptional and, although Susan and I had guessed a few of them, it never made them hit any less when they inevitably cropped up in the story. There was a romance arc, that’s kind of a love triangle, but not really … with one truly heartbreaking twist ( another thing I can’t properly talk about). There are two love interests, but in Susan’s and my eyes there was only every going to be one winner and the other we trusted about as far as we could throw him. We’re kept on our toes though and it’s only when we hit the big twist of the story that we realise the true depravity of a certain character.

I adored this book, and it’s one I want to scream about but the big twists make it near impossible. If you enjoy Gothic stories with a feminist twist, some slight horror, a Library that feels as alive as our character and want a romance filled with heartache then look no further!

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