Thursday, October 26, 2023

Book Review: Starling House by Alix. E. Harrow

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: October 3, 2023
Publisher: Tor
Source: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "A grim and gothic new tale from author Alix E. Harrow about a small town haunted by secrets that can't stay buried and the sinister house that sits at the crossroads of it all. Eden, Kentucky, is just another dying, bad-luck town, known only for the legend of E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth-century author and illustrator who wrote The Underland--and disappeared. Before she vanished, Starling House appeared. But everyone agrees that it’s best to let the uncanny house―and its last lonely heir, Arthur Starling―go to rot. Opal knows better than to mess with haunted houses or brooding men, but an unexpected job offer might be a chance to get her brother out of Eden. Too quickly, though, Starling House starts to feel dangerously like something she’s never had: a home. As sinister forces converge on Starling House, Opal and Arthur are going to have to make a dire choice to dig up the buried secrets of the past and confront their own fears, or let Eden be taken over by literal nightmares."



Opal is left to raise her younger brother, Jasper, in a run-down motel in Eden, Kentucky, which is the opposite of Eden. The town is an old coal town filled with a lot of strange mist and dead-end jobs. Opal's main goal is to get Jasper out of this town, so she will do whatever it takes. She has been having strange dreams about the Starling House, an old mansion in town that no one has been inside except the family members. Her dreams are so vivid that she practically knows the inside of the mansion without ever stepping foot inside, so when the possibility of her taking a job there comes up, she jumps despite her hesitation. The house is eerie and labyrinthian, and its resident, Arthur, is a bit of a recluse. He needs someone to clean the house, so Opal takes this chance. The more time Opal spends at Starling House, the more she realizes her connection to the house. That's when things start to get dangerous and Opal realizes that there's something sinister lurking at Starling House. Alix E. Harrow's Starling House is an atmospheric novel that's perfect for spooky season. It's one of the most memorable haunted house stories I've read in quite awhile.

Opal is the kind of underdog that I love to get behind in 
Starling House. She has had some bad luck and is left to raise her brother. She takes on crap jobs just to make extra money in order to get him out of Eden. Her dreams have been haunting her and drawing her closer and closer to Starling House. I loved getting to know Opal and what she has done to survive these past few years. I was rooting for her from the beginning and the more time she worked at Starling House, the more she realized her connection to the house. What first drew her interest to the mansion was the fact that it was built by the author of her favorite childhood book, The Underland. As Opal spends more time at the mansion, the more she realizes that this fictional book filled with strange beasts may be based on some truth as something strange is going on at the house.

Arthur, the owner of Starling House, reminded me of Boo Radley in the best way possible. His family history is steeped in curious events and I was flipping the pages to find out what exactly is going on at the house and why he feels he needs to stay and "protect" things. He was a complex character and while I was invested in his story as well as Opal's, I can't say I felt overly connected to the characters as much as I was hoping.

In turn, what really drew me to Starling House was the atmosphere. Harrow is a wonderful writer and her story is filled to the brim with Southern Gothic vibes that are really compelling. I can't handle the horror genre, but 
Starling House had just enough spook factor for me to enjoy it without it being overly terrifying. 

So, if you love a good haunted house novel, 
Starling House includes one of the best haunted house depictions I've read in years. I especially enjoyed the Gothic vibes and Southern influence. Have you read Starling House? Are you a fan of Alix E. Harrow? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. You really have me intrigued! I love a good Gothic novel.

    1. Such a good haunted house story with some definitely Southern Gothic vibes. Thanks for dropping by, Angela.


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