Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kittredge

Title: The Nightmare Garden
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Pages: 420 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher through NetGalley

Everything Aoife thought she knew about the world was a lie. There is no Necrovirus. And Aoife isn't going to succumb to madness because of a latent strain—she will lose her faculties because she is allergic to iron. Aoife isn't human. She is a changeling—half human and half from the land of Thorn. And time is running out for her.

When Aoife destroyed the Lovecraft engine she released the monsters from the Thorn Lands into the Iron Lands and now she must find a way to seal the gates and reverse the destruction she's ravaged on the world that's about to poison her.


The Engine is destroyed, monsters and Fae can freely travel through the Gates to the Iron Land, and Aoife is on the run after a series of revelations about who she is. As she runs with her friends from both the Proctors, led by the monstrous Grey Draven, and Tremaine, who doesn't appear to be finished with her yet, the iron that drove her mother and brother insane starts to take its toll on her mind. Aoife sees only one way to fix everything she has done wrong: finding the nightmare clock and setting back time to keep it all from happening. But getting to the clock will be difficult and more than a few people will do whatever they can to keep her from it.

Aoife spent most of the book frustrating me and making me wish I could kick her. This appears to be a Kittredge specialty; I read all five of her Nocturne City books and rare were moments I didn't want to throw a barefoot Luna into an endless sea of Legos. She spends most of the book going "I can fix this! We just have to turn back time" and it strikes me as inconsistent characterization for her to be so naive and cling to that idea considering the life she has lived and what she has been through. She remains difficult to like, though it is understandable in certain ways, and the way her creeping insanity wormed its way into the narrative occasionally was perfect.

Cal and Dean, both central characters in the first book, fade into the background this time around, Cal moreso than Dean. As much as I would have liked to see Bethina developed beyond her role as Cal's love interest and Archie's maid, we learned nothing more about her. The connections Aoife had with her brother (who is, for the record, a high-level jerk), dad, and (for all intents and purposes) stepmother Valentina were tenuous at the best of times but nevertheless written well. But what was up with Valentina talking to someone suspiciously and that possible plot thread being dropped just like that?

The Nightmare Garden does improve on a few of the flaws of The Iron Thorn by speeding up the pacing and smoothing out some of the writing, but it still feels overwritten more often than I would like and lines like "I pulled out a handful of Valentina's hair curlers out of the bag and, using a careful, delicate touch, shoved them one by one between all the circuits (The Nightmare Garden, ARC p. 242)" make me raise an eyebrow. Nevertheless, this book easily evaded the Middle Book Slump and kept me entertained the entire time.

The shocking ending and the cliffhanger that goes with it hooked me for the final book of the trilogy, and I hope for Aoife to demonstrate more maturity than she has in the last two books. This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but the twist at the end of the book? I hope Aoife doesn't end up fixing it. Leaving it as is opens a new, more exciting door for her as a character than the door she would go through while trying to "fix" the twist. Once you read the book and figure out what I'm talking about, you'll know what I mean and probably hate me for it. Fans of the first book will certainly enjoy The Nightmare Garden just as much.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Croak by Gina Damico