Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

Main characters:  Teenagers Shauna, Jess, Kitty, and Anna
Location: Solomon's Folly, Massachusetts
Time period: Contemporary
Genre:  YA Fiction, Horror, Supernatural, Ghost Story
Series: Bloody Mary, bk. 1

Jess has become obsessed with the legend of Bloody Mary, and has decided to research the historical Mary. She learns enough to convince (or some might say browbeat) her friends into performing the summoning ritual.  What they don't know is that Jess doesn't just want to play the game for a few scares--she wants to set Mary free.

When Mary is able to reach through the mirror, she claims Shauna by scratching her.  Now she is able to attack Shauna and those with her through any reflective surface--not just mirrors, but bathroom fixtures, shiny picture frames, car windshields and sunglasses.  There is nowhere that she cannot reach.

I'm not necessarily a fan of current horror films--which influence this book a great deal--but there were some things I really liked about this book.  One is the way the author revealed Mary's history through letters that showed how Mary's abuse at the hands of a powerful preacher led to her mental and emotional breakdown and turned her into the vengeful ghost of legend.  This is not a restless spirit who wants to be laid to rest--in life Mary was tormented and bullied and now she wants to make others suffer the way she suffered.  In this, she reminds me of the ghost in Susan Hill's The Woman in Black.  The other thing that caught my imagination is this thought that Mary haunts a victim until she becomes fixated on another.  Once Shauna is marked, she meets Cordelia, the woman who had previously been Mary's victim and only now knows peace.  By visiting Cordelia in her house, Shauna is given a look into what her life will become--a solitary life trapped in a dark house with no light and no reflections.  Cordelia also gives her the awful news that Mary torments her victims by going after those close to them, forcing them to retreat from the comfort of friends and family. 

Shauna is a very nice, empathetic character.  Jess, however, is despicable.  She withholds information from her friends when not outright lying to them.  Her obsession with Mary blinds her to the danger that she puts her them in, and then she is cold-blooded enough to try to trick other girls into performing the ritual in order to save Shauna.  As much as I would hate to have her as a friend, she is a crucial catalyst to the story.  I can't wait to see what will happen to her in the next book.

I read Mary: The Summoning  as an e-ARC from NetGalley.

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