I have a new favorite writer. Ok, ok, disclosure: I am a bit biased as I know relatives of his, but I really love the way that Stefan Bachmann writes. His writing is so alive, and he sucks you right in.
The first book I read of his was The Peculiar, and at first I wasn’t sure I was going to like, though I enjoyed his style. I am a little tired of the standard fairy lore, especially having read much of it in Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. Somehow, though Bachmann managed to make fairies seem fresh. Maybe it was the added benefit of being set in a Victorian steampunk era. At any rate, before long, he had me hooked and I’m excited to read the sequel.
A Drop of Night is for slightly older readers–I say teens and up–for it has some gore and a lot of scary situations. This one is written in the first person and despite Anouk’s narration almost almost being purple, I l.o.v.e.d. it. Her way of describing people and situations is firecracker fresh, and one finds her immediately both likable and annoying. Bachmann balances her account with that of a French girl living at the time of the Revolution, and if there are slight similarities in their turn of phrase, by the end of the story, there’s a reason for it.
(Spoilers). Although I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the story, A Drop of Night reminded me greatly of the movie The Cube that came out a few years ago. Both stories involve a group of people trying to figure a way out of a human-made prison involving series of connected rooms, booby traps, and constantly changing circumstances. If Hollywood is looking for an idea for a teen horror flick, this would be it, but they would probably ruin it.
By the end of the book, I, too, felt trapped in 18th Century France, and smothered by the smells, the flowers, and the neverending silks and fabrics on everything! I half-expected the clockwork puppets and dolls from Doctor Who‘s “The Girl in the Fireplace” to show up along with the multiple villains and traps. It also made me want to read Daphne Du Maurier’s sumptuous Frenchman’s Creek again. The location and environment ended up being the overpowering main character, and even after finishing the story, I still can’t shake off the oppressive nature of the place. I can imagine if any of the teenagers survived (and I’m not telling that) that they would be haunted for years to come.
Action aside, A Drop of Night is really that. We are shown a brief time in these teenagers’ lives and learn some heartbreaking things that they have to deal with. Drops of darkness in otherwise pleasant looking lives. For the villains, we can see that one drop of darkness became two, and so on and so forth, until there wasn’t anything but darkness for them. Bachmann’s writes gripping, fantastical tales that also have a heart and soul. Alive is his writing voice. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. He’s definitely a writer to watch.