I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough
Series: Long Lankin #2
Published by Candlewick Press on May 10th 2016
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Also by this author: Long Lankin
A spine-chilling companion to Long Lankin, here is the story of a wronged witch’s revenge, spanning generations and crossing the shadowy line between life and death.
In 1567, baby Aphra is found among the reeds and rushes by two outcast witches. Even as an infant, her gifts in the dark craft are clear. But when her guardians succumb to an angry mob, Aphra is left to fend for herself. She is shunned and feared by all but one man, the leper known as Long Lankin. Hounded and ostracized, the two find solace only in each other, but even this respite is doomed, and Aphra’s bitterness poisons her entire being. Afflicted with leprosy, tortured and about to be burned as a witch, she manages one final enchantment—a curse on her tormentor’s heirs. Now, in 1962, Cora and Mimi, the last of a cursed line, are trapped in an ancient home on a crumbling estate in deepest winter, menaced by a spirit bent on revenge. Are their lives and souls forfeit forever?
Long Lankin Series
‘I am bound here, for as long as there are Guerdons in the world, I must be in it. And they have returned to the marshlands – to me.’
It’s been four years since Cora and Mimi lived to tell the tale of Long Lankin. The two girls survived, however, the scars they acquired are hidden beneath their skin. After their father recently came into an inheritance, their Auntie Ida’s rundown mansion, he tells them that they’re moving to the village of Bryers Guerdon. Right back to where it all happened. Long Lankin may no longer be a threat, but he wasn’t the only one left to fear. 400 years prior, a woman by the name of Aphra Rushes loved a leper who was known by the name of Long Lankin. She was sentenced to death at a young age for murdering an infant and his mother, a spell with the intent to cure Lankin which had gone awry. With her dying breath she placed a curse on the Guerdon line, who were responsible for her death. Flash forward to the Halloween of 1962 and her ashes have risen up from the ground to fulfill the curse that she placed on the Guerdon family before she was covered in pitch and burned at the stake.
‘I am the dust of charred bones and ash.’
I’ve considered Long Lankin to be one of my all-time favorite gothic horror stories and news of a follow-up story had me most eager even if I didn’t understand the necessity. There’s a wonderful air of mystery to The Mark of Cain, a constant sense of impending catastrophe. The writing itself is eloquent and I delighted in the eerie events depicted: the old derelict mansion that was unsettling on its own yet the girls’ memories of their time spent there made it even more so, their temporary guardians that caused more discontent than comfort due to their forever absent father, and the strange items that they would find around the house like the bundle of twigs tied with red twine or the archaic symbols sketched on the doors. The pacing felt constantly off and I ultimately feel it should not have taken all 496 pages to reach the point we did. The slow-pacing could have been easily made up for if that sense of impending catastrophe was heightened just a smidge more.
The story is told mainly from the point of view of Cora who is now fifteen years old and is struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy for her eight year old sister Mimi. The only trouble is, since Mimi was taken by Lankin she returned a changed child, able to see things normal people cannot. Including the current terror haunting them in their new home. Because we’re told this story from the POV of Cora, there’s a bit of a disconnect of knowledge that keeps the reader in the dark since Mimi refuses to discuss anything with Cora. What I’m assuming was intended was to add even more mystery to this story, but it only caused the story to falter leaving it feeling all very subdued as if Cora wasn’t actually experiencing it all firsthand. Regardless of the fact that Mimi is only eight years old, having the story told from her point of view would have been a vast improvement.
I’ve come a long way in the horror genre since I read Long Lankin back in 2012. In that review, I even admit to being “a big weenie” which I definitely wouldn’t describe myself in terms of horror stories anymore. Back then it took some serious encouragement to read horror and now I’d consider it one of my favorite genres. Long Lankin was a most unsettling read, yet The Mark of Cain just didn’t manage to leave me with the same impression. I think it would be appropriate to actually describe this as more Gothic vs. horror for curious readers. This may not have completely worked for me, but this is a Gothic thriller that will no doubt please many.