The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck || Halloween is Here Early!

The Lantern's Ember Cover

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Welcome to a world where nightmarish creatures reign supreme.

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So, he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern—one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal—or not-so-mortal—soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare. 

Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire—and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos.

DISCLAIMER: I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

EXPECTED SEPTEMBER 11, 2018

3.5 STARS

If you’re in the mood for something that’s just dripping with that Halloween atmosphere, look no further, because The Lantern’s Ember absolutely DELIVERS. It’s got witches, werewolves, vampires, the Headless Horseman, pumpkins, spells, the Loch Ness Monster, and still MORE because that’s how Halloween it is. Plus that cover? Absolutely gorgeous and completely perfect for the book. Those were easily my two favorite things about this book.

The other favorite thing had to be the setting. It’s a historical fantasy, set in some indistinct time period after the Salem Witch Trials but well before now, but that real world aspect is short lived because the book’s focus is on Ember O’Dare’s journey through the Otherworld, a land powered by witchlight and inhabited by all the things we know go bump in the night. The Otherworld is technologically ahead of the mortal world, which means it’s got elevators, escalators, airships, submarines, electricity (in the form of witchlight), and soooo much more! It was amazing how well the tech we recognize so readily today was written in such a way that you actually could feel some of the characters’ wonder and suspicion about being introduced to it for the first time. Not to mention the whole thing is this odd combination of fantasy and steampunk, I feel like, so it’s absolutely enchanting. I just loved it so much.

As for favorite characters, I had to pick Ember and Finney, the only two characters from the mortal world. Ember may have been a little hotheaded and brash, but I love that she uses her witch magic for compassion and not power, plus I love that she’s stubborn. Does it mean she sometimes makes poor decisions? Yes, it does. But does that mean she’s interesting and flawed and exciting? Yes! I’m always going to be more inclined to like a character who sticks to her guns than a character who can always be persuaded into taking the smart, safe choice. As for Finney, he’s a timid little inventor and a really loyal friend. His crush on Ember is so cute and I honestly think he’s the only one of her love interests who deserves her and would treat her right 100% of the time. He puts her first and takes her non-interest in him like any decent human being would do by still caring about her but absolutely respecting her choices. Which also means (spoiler not spoiler, I guess, because this happens all the time), he doesn’t get the girl.

It’s okay, Finney. You’re a good kid anyway.

But that means I spent the rest of the book, when we weren’t deep in plot and exploration territory, hating the romance. Ember’s options are as follows: Finney, sweet inventor boy and childhood friend, overlooked constantly. Jack, lantern who is about 500 years old and has been watching over her since she was a child. Dev, the equally old (if not older) vampire with a possessive streak and past emotional trauma about his last witch love.

Now, I’m going to be really blunt here: I’m sick of stories where the seventeen year-old girl is caught in a love triangle between two adult men much, much older than her. I don’t care if Jack is seventeen in appearance. The fact is that he’s 500+, has spent most of those 500 years as judge, jury, and executioner for those who stray from the Otherworld without permission, and he’s Ember’s guardian, watching out for her since she was small. But he’s mysterious and attractive, so apparently it’s okay (it’s not, it’s mostly just really creepy and I hate it).

As for Dev, he’s conniving, never tells Ember the whole truth about anything until it’s nearly too late, he tries to trick her into loving him, he’s possessive enough that he gets into a fight with Jack over who’s the better suitor, and he’s basically looking to replace his last love with Ember because she’s a powerful witch and she makes him feel good. He creeped me out as much as Jack, especially because his predatory streak feels incredibly obvious.

Could someone explain to me why this is supposed to be romantic? Why mysterious and way too damn old for a seventeen year-old is considered acceptable and even sexy, but the kid of the same age who’s a good person and does the right thing gets walked all over and it’s funny or cute because he never had a chance? It makes me so, so uncomfortable because it feels so prevalent, especially in fantasy, especially when the female protagonist is super powerful in magical ways and that’s what draws all these older men into her sphere in the first place.

Anyways, beyond my disgust with the romance, I was disappointed in the dialogue, which was way too stiff ALL THE TIME, and the ending, which felt incredible rushed. The turn-around in some character’s attitudes toward one another was very simple (and honestly kind of ignored the bits where one character was totally willing to imprison or kill the others for fun/experiments/profit), and some things were really never resolved or remedied, like a kill switch implanted in one character and…spyware, I guess, in another, both unwittingly victims to the same person. It also lost the atmospheric majesty I was so pleased with earlier. However, it did slowly unveil how the characters have influenced Halloween in the mortal world, and I thought that was a cute “where are they now?” kind of ending.

On the whole, I think The Lantern’s Ember is remarkable for its atmosphere and the shape it takes in the Otherworld. That is far and away my favorite aspect of this book. It is disappointing, though, in the romance and the resolution, and that brought my rating down a fair bit.

This book hits the shelves on September 11 this year, so if you need some early Halloween in your life and want to cruise through a world positively brimming with it, then The Lantern’s Ember may be for you!

5 thoughts on “The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck || Halloween is Here Early!

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