- Barbara Copperthwaite
Review: THE FIRE CHILD, S.K. Tremayne
“The sense of place was magnificent, and the atmosphere was taut, but seemed to come at the expense of characterization and plot”
When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.
But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?
As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:
‘You will be dead by Christmas.’
This is a stylish psychological thriller, with a gothic and ghostly feel to it. The set up for it is obviously a tribute to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but I liked that, and it moved away from that to become very much its own story.
Even from the idyllic start, there is a clever sense of tension, as the chapter headings are on a countdown to Christmas. Immediately, the reader knows something is coming, drawing ever closer…
The talent of S.K. Tremayne’s writing is obvious. If you liked the Ice Twins, you’ll know that with S.K. Tremayne what you get more than anything is a creepy feeling of suspense, the wonder of ‘is it all in the character’s head, or is this real’, and some truly fabulous, atmospheric descriptions of the setting. The author is brilliant at using landscape as another ‘character’, such is its strength and the addition it makes to the overall story. That is what you got with The Ice Twins, and you get it again with The Fire Child.
While The Ice Twins did divide, I absolutely love it. My feelings toward The Fire Child are more ambivalent, though. I did enjoy it. I did find it a read that had me wondering what on earth was going to happen. I kept turning those pages, and when I did put the book down, I found myself eager to get back to it. But as I closed the book at the end, I felt slightly disappointed overall.
I love slow, brooding stories that build like a wave far out at sea, gathering pace and height as it sweeps you along, until it crashes over you in a conclusion that leaves you gasping. But although I was swept along, I feel as if I was carefully placed onto dry land at the end of it all. There was no maelstrom of emotion for me, just a feeling of ‘oh, okay; not what I expected.’
Why was that? Quite simply, the storyline isn’t the strongest, and I do think more could have been done with it. The sense of place was magnificent, and the atmosphere was taut, but seemed to come at the expense of characterization and plot.
At the start, I described The Fire Child as stylish, and it certainly is – but it needs a little less style and a little more substance, in my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, and will definitely read more S.K. Tremayne – but more because of the strength of The Ice Twins. The Fire Child gets a solid 3.5 stars from me.