This book was a huge shot in the dark for me. I hadn’t heard of the series before, and the fact that it was the third in a series so I had no idea what I was getting myself into….and it’s categorized as sci-fi which I usually don’t read much of.
I thought the title sounded interesting and I loved the promise of a creepy old woman haunting people and the cover is quirky and eye catching, so in the end I thought…..why not.
It’s rare that I read a ‘shot in the dark’ book, I usually try and stick within my favorite genres while occasionally trying something ‘new to me’ but this one was completely different than what I normally read so I kept coming back to the catchy title (even if it was long!) and I ultimately just went for it.
In the town of Night Vale, there’s a faceless old woman who secretly lives in everyone’s home, but no one knows how she got there or where she came from…until now. Told in a series of eerie flashbacks, the story of The Faceless Old Woman goes back centuries to reveal an initially blissful and then tragic childhood on a Mediterranean Estate in the early nineteenth century, her rise in the criminal underworld of Europe, a nautical adventure with a mysterious organization of smugglers, her plot for revenge on the ones who betrayed her, and ultimately her death and its aftermath, as her spirit travels the world for decades until settling in modern-day Night Vale.
Interspersed throughout is a present-day story in Night Vale, as The Faceless Old Woman guides, haunts, and sabotages a man named Craig. In the end, her current day dealings with Craig and her swashbuckling history in nineteenth century Europe will come together in the most unexpected and horrifying way.
Part The Haunting of Hill House, part The Count of Monte Cristo, and 100% about a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home. (summary from Goodreads)
I loved the last bit of the summary where it describes this book as being part Haunting of Hill House and part Count of Monte Cristo. I love both of those books so much and I really thought this was going to be a book I would really enjoy. It was difficult for me to decide if I felt lost because I was missing the other 2 books in the series or if this book was part of a podcast series (which what is that even???), or if it was the fact that it was set in a world I had no understanding or prior knowledge, or if the story itself was just plain confusing. I honestly couldn’t say…..maybe all of those things.
I mean, I didn’t hate this book, on the contrary, I thought it had a ton of potential and a lot of unique quirky things to recommend itself, but I definitely felt confused and unsure of the plot for most of the book. The story is told over two different time periods, a modern day thread and an 1800s thread, ultimately converging together later in the book, but for the first part of the book I had no idea how these two threads were connected and felt lost and disconnected from the characters.
Though I did love the old woman though—-she had an interesting story, though predicable, was still a pleasure to read and enjoy. So here comes the big debate….what do I rate this book? I mean on one hand I felt lost in the world and plot, but it wasn’t entirely imperative to the story if that makes sense. The story could be enjoyed independently without much knowledge of the larger world but it is clear that the author assumes readers are familiar with the Night Vale world and I sadly am not, though I am definitely interested in reading the other books or even checking out the podcast because I think there is a lot to love in this series. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel disconnected to the story to some degree so I ended up giving this one a 3 star rating. Lots of good mechanics and interesting things happening, but if you aren’t familiar with the world etc you might not enjoy it as much.