Published by Penguin, Philomel on June 27, 2013
Genres: Gothic Romance, Young Adult
AMAZON • B&N • BOOK DEPOSITORY • Goodreads
Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.
With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make awager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem, "Annabel Lee," Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.
There are certain keywords and story settings that are like crack to me. If I see them in a blurb or in a synopsis, I can’t help it. I hit the “buy” button immediately. Those words include “gothic” and “romance;” those settings include small towns. And if they happen to be small, isolated island towns, well, that book has got to be mine. Enter Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey. This YA novel is a gothic retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s haunting poem, Annabel Lee. Sold!
The angels are not more pure than the heart of a young man who loves with fervor.
Our story’s hero is Liam MacGregor, a Poe-like character with a tragic history who has never stepped foot off Dóchas, an isolated island off the coast of Maine. He lives a lonely existence — his birth parents are mysteriously dead, his loving adoptive mother has also passed, and his adoptive father, who is continuously disappointed by him, is abusive at his worst. Despite the horror in which he lives, Liam is a poetic, kind-hearted character whose voice is reminiscent of an older time. His language tends toward the romantic and I loved how different a YA hero Lindsey gives us through Liam. He has no idea of his worth, has yet to find his voice, and buys into the island superstitions surrounding his birth. He is an ostracized character who you just want to hug.
For so long I’d held on to her as a concept. Now she was tangible.
Enter Annabel Leighton – a Paris Hilton-like character who is rich, famous, and notorious. Her family owns a house on the island; they have been woven into the fabric of the community’s history for a very long time. She hasn’t been to Dóchas since she was a child and now she is condemned to spend time there alone. She captures Liam’s heart but, honestly, Anna was hard to like at first. I wasn’t sure if she would hurt him — is a girl like Anna what the tabloids make of her or does she have something deeper inside? But Anna surprised me. Though a tad too fast, I appreciated the journey she takes of moving from a place of superficiality to one of authenticity. I loved that Anna helps Liam realize his power, his worth, his talent. That role reversal is wonderful. Too often it’s a male character that helps a female find herself on a similar journey but here, it’s Anna that shows Liam the world.
A tear breached her lashes and shimmered as it made its way down her flawless skin. Unable to help myself, I brushed it away with my thumb. She leaned her face into my touch. And I was undone.
These two tragic lovers face island superstitions, become chess pieces in a supernatural power play, and, in the end, you have to wonder if it was all real. The one aspect that didn’t totally work for me was specifically the supernatural elements of the story. I wish the more romantic language that so characterized Liam had also transferred to some of the dialogue of the island’s Otherwordly inhabitants which seemed…less dramatic, less romantic, less “of another time,” maybe? I can’t put my finger on it but there were moments when I wished that language matched more with Liam’s.
Regardless, this book sucked me in as I fell for the tenderness of the characters, the drama and dark history that pulls them in different directions, and the pure romanticism and tragedy of it all. This was a wonderful YA novel in which “gothic” and “romance” are well-deserved descriptors for such a sad but powerful tale. 4 Howls!