Review: Seduction by M.J. Rose

Seduction From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost letters of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.
In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.
Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.
What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.” – Goodreads

Seduction by M.J. Rose is the fifth book in Rose’s Reincarnationist series. The previous book, The Book of Lost Fragrances, starred as its heroine Jac L’Etoile, and Jac remains the focal character in Seduction, as well. While I have heard from many that it is not necessary to have read any of the previous books to enjoy Seduction, I do wish I had read The Book of Lost Fragrances first; I felt many times that I was missing out on pieces of Jac’s history that could have helped me to know her better in the current story. That said, Rose tells a hypnotic, mystical tale here that captivates the reader nonetheless.

Seduction follows three basic timelines: glimpses of a Druid priest and his family in 56 BCE, chronicles of time from Victor Hugo’s exile in the English Channel in the 1850’s, and the present day in which Jac L’Etoile herself is spending time on the same British isle where both the Druid priest and Hugo had lived. Rose convincingly marries fact with fiction in the case of Victor Hugo. His role in the tale is told in his own words, in the form of a letter to a close friend, detailing episodes from the time he was living in exile in Jersey. Around 1853 he held over one hundred seances – at first his goal was to make contact with his eldest child, Didine, who had drowned years before. Shortly thereafter, however, it became an unhealthy obsession for Hugo, particularly after his group makes contact with an entity who calls itself the Shadow of the Sepulcher, who begins to follow Hugo even beyond the seance table and ultimately offers him a tempting but evil deal…

Meanwhile, in the present day, Jac L’Etoile, who works as a mythologist, has returned to work after recovering from an great loss. At the request of an old friend she has traveled to Jersey in the English Channel to investigate ancient caves and Celtic ruins and to search for the rumored existence of Victor Hugo’s chronicle of his experiences with the Shadow of the Sepulcher. While on the island, she has mysterious “flashbacks” in which she sees a Druid priest, his wife, and son in 56 BCE as they experience tragic circumstances of their own. Rose weaves these three tales together as one, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the way they fit together… it’s kind of like trying to fit a circular peg into a square hole – there were gaps left in the story that could have been fleshed out just a bit more.

Falling in line with the name of this series, reincarnation is a theme here. Carl Jung’s theories of reincarnation and the workings of the collective unconscious are actually discussed by characters within the story. While reincarnation is an integral part of the plot, there are so many other layers to this novel. Rose uses her descriptive powers to create a tale of mystery and suspense, even one of horror, as she weaves these three eras of humanity together. Despite the occasional gaps, Rose has masterfully crafted the story in such a way that it is easy to follow in spite of these faults.

As someone who usually shies away from books of this nature, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this novel full of mythology and mystery. It took a little warming up to, but I grew to enjoy it immensely. I look forward to reading The Book of Lost Fragrances so I can learn more about Jac L’Etoile, and perhaps reading the rest of the Reincarnationist series as well.

Seduction by M.J. Rose is currently available for purchase at a bookseller near you!

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Atria Books (via NetGalley)

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