Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career, but Sylvie’s pain runs deeper. What broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage—a union that’s only driven an even deeper wedge into their already tenuous relationship.
Uprooting her from her Manhattan apartment and shipping her to Alabama is her mother’s solution for Sylvie’s unhappiness. Her father’s cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family’s history. And that’s where things start to get shady. As it turns out, her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew. More unnerving, though, are the two guys that she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, seems to be perfect in every way. But Rhys—a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin’s—has a hold on her that she doesn’t quite understand.
Then she starts seeing things. Sylvie’s lost nearly everything—is she starting to lose her mind as well?
I will quite honestly say that I was very guarded when I started reading The Splendour Falls. I was so concerned it was going to be similar to Fallen or even The Hollow and so when after the opening chapter I was faced with something utterly unexpected and well written, I was over the moon. I even did a little skippy dance. No. Seriously.
The Splendour Falls introduces us to Sylvie who suffered a terrible accident whilst on stage – she broke her leg quite badly and after months of therapy and operations, Sylvie is in a dark place. She can hobble around but she seems to be in constant pain. Her mother’s about to go off on her honeymoon with her second husband and decides that Sylvie may be better off with her cousin in Alabama. But then Sylvie did get drunk at the wedding reception, stagger out of the party and have a particularly vivid hallucination in Central Park. All of this, her “substance” abuse and her dark moods convinced her mom that a change of scenery would be best.
Sylvie knows very little about her father’s home. She knew he left in his late teens, never to return. He never spoke about his family or where he came from. So she’s in for a big shock when she arrives at Blue Stone Inn and discovers that everyone’s been waiting for her to arrive as she belongs. But belongs to what or where, exactly? Sylvie’s not sure what exactly is going on – wherever she goes in town everyone greets her and is nice, welcoming her “home”. She feels more than just a bit freaked out and the way that Shawn Maddox behaves around her, it’s like he owns her, like they are destined to be together. Hokum, right? It’s an interesting question that’s raised – old folkloric beliefs vs common sense and modern thought.
Throw into the mix the very lovely and pleasant Rhys who clearly has a thing for Sylvie but who is an outsider, working with his father (an anthropologist) whilst helping out at an archaeological dig nearby. Rhys is very likeable. I like how he stands up to Shawn and is protective over Sylvie, although he clearly feels he can’t reveal what he’s about as that would freak her out. Sylvie on the other hand is not a stupid girl, at all. She’s very quick to catch on that things are different at the Inn and soon pieces are coming together and her doubts about her sanity goes from one end of the spectrum to the next. She starts working on the knot garden, clearing off the blue standing stone in the middle of the garden and reshaping the garden according to an old plan she found in a diary. Working in the garden keeps her grounded, she feels closer to her father who was a landscape architect.
There is a smattering of the supernatural throughout The Splendour Falls. I have to say I strongly suspected it to go one way and then it didn’t and I was so incredibly pleased. The whole story works so well. Wonderfully written with the main character being someone you actually like and have empathy for. She proactive and reactive. Her life is her life. She’s strong and independent and a bit sulky and moody for quite a while in the beginning but then, she’s allowed to be.
What I love about Sylvie’s character is that she has a very firm grasp of who she is or rather, who she was. She thinks she has to change utterly from being brought up with this dream of being a world famous ballet dancer and flounders quite a bit, but it’s her training and her self-determination that sees her through and she realises that although she may never dance again, there are other things out there that she can do, that she’s good at. She was never just a dancer, there is more to her (and her future) than that. Again, a fantastic role model for girls of all ages to look to. I found Sylvie a fantastic change of pace as well as the whole story told within The Splendour Falls and the snippets of Celtic lore woven throughout. There are many strands from the story which I’ve left unexplored in this review because as a reader you should discover them for yourself. And I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did!
The Splendour Falls is due out at the end of January 2010 by Random House Children’s Books and is aimed strongly at the YA market with some tremendous cross-over appeal. Find Rosemary Clement-Moore's website here.