This book was acquired by reviewer via Amazon.com.
GOODREADS SUMMARY: Lately Tab Bennett’s life is like a fairy tale. Unfortunately for her, it’s the Grimm kind. The kind where the woods are deep and dark and full of monsters; where a mother’s longing for something forbidden means terrible consequences for her daughter; where the huntsman who takes the princess for a walk in the woods plans to steal her heart – literally – right out of her chest.
Right up until the visions started, Tab would have described herself as normal. But her sisters’ disappearance brought long-hidden secrets into the light, revealing a world she never dreamed existed and a destiny she cannot deny. Now “normal” means wicked subterranean kings and murdered Elvish princesses and clandestine revenge schemes. Suddenly Tab is juggling her fiancé’s broken heart and a handsome prince’s irresistible advances while trying to unravel an assassination plot, and avoid a sociopath with an axe to grind.
As she struggles to hold on to the human world she’s always known and understand her place in the magical one she’s just discovered, dangerous forces have begun gathering around her. If she wants to live to see the happily ever after at the end of the story, Tab will have to figure out who she can trust, who wants her dead, and why. The answers will change everything she believes about herself, the people she loves, and the place she calls home.
This was a hard review to write because I really don’t want to give too much away. The only thing I knew about this book was the author, Jes Young, who was a fantastic guest on my blog back in May (read her wonderful post here and see what books have inspired her), and the Goodreads summary above. And I think this was a good way to approach Tab Bennett and the Inbetween because there are a lot of revelations that will take you by surprise. So as to not risk spoiling any revelations with too much summary, let’s dive in.
This book has a gripping open. I dare you to read the first paragraph and NOT be pulled in by it:
While my sister Rivers was dying, I was planting crocus bulbs in my front yard.
While she was fighting for her life, I was thinking about how pretty the purple and yellow flowers would look poking up through the snow when the spring came. While she was gasping for air I was singing along with the radio to some stupid top 40 song I’d be embarrassed to admit I know. I was tired and achy. I saw the dirt under my nails and then I knew. There was dirt under her nails too.
The open was so strong I could not put the book down until long after. And the rest of the book did not disappoint.
Tab Bennett and the Inbetween is a fairytale of sorts. Tabitha Bennett starts the story as an ordinary 25-year old bank teller, working at her family’s bank, living in a small cottage on the grounds of Witchwood Manor, where she grew up, and engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Robbin Turnbough. Life would be good if someone would stop murdering her sisters. Tab’s life is suddenly turned upside down when the death of her last surviving sister brings to light revelations about her parents, who she is, and what she is destined become. And this is where the “fairy” part of that tale comes in. Not only must Tab deal with the loss of her sisters, but she must also come face-to-face with a world of magic, intrigue, and danger that she never knew existed.
What I enjoyed most about this story was Tab Bennett herself. I think Young created a wonderful heroine in Tab. She is smart and she is a smartass. I always love that combo. When faced with tough moments, Tab always has a great line:
I’ve always found the custom of gathering for a starchy lunch after burying a loved one a little strange. I guess all the heavy food and whispery voices are supposed to be a comforting reminder that life goes on, but I find the way the death and burial become secondary to the potato salad deeply, deeply unsettling.
But she also shows some growth over the course of the story. From an innocent young woman who accepts the stories she has been fed about who she is, to a strong woman who not only faces the truth of her newfound situation, but eventually takes control of it.
There were also some wonderful structural aspects to the storytelling. Tab Bennett is written in the first person from Tab’s perspective. Peppered throughout are little asides that remind the reader of Tab’s narration, as if this tale has already happened and she is confiding in you. In a scene in which Robbin asks Tab to run away with him, she says:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked back on that moment wondering what would have happened if I’d let him take me away that night. Where would I be right now? Who would I be? So much pain could have been avoided.
And later, when she makes a bad decision that endangers her life, you know, like in a horror flick when the woman opens the basement door to check out a noise instead of running for her life, that kind of decision, Tab says,
I know. I know. It’s hard to believe I’m that stupid.
These touches drew me closer to Tab. It added a level of intimacy with the reader, as if you are sitting there with Tab while she looks back on those moments that changed her life forever.
The secondary cast of characters is also good. It really is raining men in the world of Tab Bennett. There is Robbin, Tab’s fiancé, Alex, the man trying to steal her heart, and her cousins George, Matt and Francis. Each one has a role to play and those roles become clearer as the story unfolds. The love triangle is also well-done. I was hoping for a twist towards the end of the book that would put Tab in the arms of the guy I want for her. The romance kept me on my toes as I hoped for an outcome that didn’t happen. And then there is Pop, the patriarch of Witchwood Manor who parcels out bits of wisdom like this when Tabitha comes to him confused about her magically manipulated feelings for Alex:
Allow me to unravel this riddle for you, Tabitha, my girl. Keep your pants on and act like a lady and I’m sure the enchantment will leave you alone.
Some minor quibbles…I’m not sure why but when I first started reading Tab Bennett, I thought it was a YA novel. And I can’t give specifics, it was just something I felt. When that first sex scene came along, I was slightly taken aback. Then I remembered how old Tab was and realized this is definitely not a YA novel. Nor did it feel like one by the end of the story.
Also, with the exception of a few scenes, the story almost entirely takes place at Witchwood Manor. As a reader, I was starting to get cabin fever. Tab is introduced to this magical elvish world but doesn’t actually go there. At least not in this book. I recognize this was purposefully done because Tab can’t leave the house for fear of being murdered, but by the end, I so desperately wanted to see this world that I was reminded of the first time I saw the film version of Fellowship of the Ring. I had not read the Tolkien books before seeing it so when the movie ended, I sat there for a few seconds, staring at the screen, and I turned to my husband and said, “Well, hold on, what about the ring?” His response, after laughter, was, “Wait for the next two movies.” That’s how I felt at the end of this story…well, what about the other worlds – the Inbetween and the Underneath? What about the magic? The answer: wait for book two.
And I will wait for book two. I’m looking forward to reading it. Tab Bennett and the Inbetween was a wonderful introduction to an engaging heroine. It will be nice to see what Young conjures up next for Tab as she seems destined to face some serious truths about her mother’s past as well as some serious magical elvish WTFery.