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Isis (2009)

Isis (2009)

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3.66 of 5 Votes: 3
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1593155409 (ISBN13: 9781593155407)
vanguard press

About book Isis (2009)

Isis is a book I received for review. In the instant I saw the cover and Douglas Clegg's website I was overcome by book lust, but I didn't realise that the book was a novella until it arrived in the mail. I mistakenly wrote the work off straight away as a poorly marketed children's picture book, but I was wrong. So very wrong.Isis is the story of Iris Catherine Villiers, a girl growing up in a large, dark house atop rocky cliffs, with a governess who seems cold beneath her beauty, a set of older brother twins (one good, one bad) and a mother who has given up her dreams of the stage to play house while the children's father is at war. In a moment of furious will, Iris causes an event which alters her heart, her spirit, her very existence. But it is how Iris chooses to deal with this grief that carries the momentum of this book, along with the dark consequences that result from Iris' poisonous choice.Strangely didactic in execution, Isis is a storytelling with the same black undertones as those existing in nursery rhymes and traditional Brothers Grimm fairytales. As the title Isis directs, the book draws its central nature from the Ancient Egyptian myth of the Queen Isis, who loses her husband, Osiris, to murder by a jealous enemy. Osiris as husband (who also happens to be Isis' brother!) is cut into parts by the enemy's wish and strewn all over the land. Rather than leave Osiris to rest in pieces, Isis' grief spurs her on to hunt for each piece and reassemble Osiris in the hope that he will be transformed to her living, breathing lover once more. As it turns out, the new Osiris cannot exist in the land of the living, but in Egyptian tradition where once you're royalty, you're always royalty, Osiris finds his new place as King, this time as the Lord of the Dead.The writing in Clegg's Isis is Gothic in style, and sparse, with a preference for a strong and clear story without clogged detail. The author (wisely, I believe) draws all the characters sketchily, differentiating between them with a few carefully chosen sensory descriptions. For example, Iris' twin brothers can be told apart as "Spence smelled, in the summer, distinctly of dirt and pond water, while Harvey had a fragrance as if he'd rolled in lavender." There is nothing original about the story's characters unfortunately - you have the groundskeeper who enjoys regaling Iris with local ghost stories, the debaucherous nanny and the good and evil twin in a sprawling Victorian ancestral mansion with pulsing family tombs situated nearby. But it is the twist on the legend of Isis and Osiris that makes this black fable so refreshing. While Isis in the Egyptian myth is treated as a heroine, Clegg has treated his protagonist differently- Iris makes her choices out of the selfishness of longing and loss, and she is held at arm's length for the reader to see her actions as dark folly rather than heroic in nature.Strangely, the novella is marketed as a horror - To my mind, however, those in search of a mysterious horror will be disappointed. There are some slightly horrible moments, but when it boils down to it Isis is a sad, wispy tale of love and the selfishness of loss and longing. In all truthfulness, this is not a book that promises to excite and delight and set the heart to hammering - its beauty is the more shy, retiring type.Despite enjoying the generally creepy atmosphere, the slightly-cliched characters, the symbolism and the pretty writing, what truly makes this precious novella covetable is the gorgeous illustrations. Done in a style reminiscent of the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the spindly artworks are melancholy sweetness and ghostly sorrow in equal measure. The illustrations are clever as well as beautiful - the pictures twist and turn - you may glimpse an eerie face on the normalcy of a tree trunk, and then blink and the face is gone. You'll be wondering whether you're seeing things, but really - that's half the fun, innit?!I could attempt to criticise Mr Clegg's sophisticated offering by wishing it to have been a novel rather than novella, but on second thoughts any extra length would completely ruin its prettily poetic nature.All in all, this book was such a pleasant surprise, and I'll be reading more of Douglas Clegg's works having so enjoyed this latest one.But if you're still wondering whether YOU will enjoy it, I can only give the following guidance: if you're the type of person that holds their breath going past graveyards for fear of inciting bad luck (or worse, raising the dead), this book might make your fears a little worse.But if you're not too afraid of such things, and you can appreciate for a few moments the delicate beauty of, say a spiderweb's intricate threadings, before brushing it out of your path, then read Isis - it's enchantingly dark, sorrowful and only slightly dangerous.Rating: Isis receives 4 deathly romantic stars.

"Death has a price, and all who bargain with the dead must pay it."A perfect Halloween read. Dark, haunting and lushly dressed, this beautifully written (and equally well illustrated) novella presents itself with a lyrical, dream-like quality that adds to the atmosphere of slowly creeping dread that saturates the story and leads to an ending that will leave your soul nicely chilled. This is my first Douglass Clegg work and it will not be my last. I shall Clegg again. Dealing deftly with themes of powerful love, unimaginable loss, unbearable isolation and the dangerous lengths the grieving will go to assuage there on guilt and pain, this book has much to say and it says it well. This is wonderful stuff. PLOT SUMMARYThe only real bright spot in Iris Catherine Villiers’ whole world is her twin brother, Harvey. Her father is absent, her mother is cold and mostly comatose from loneliness and laudanum and her governess is a cruel, gold-digging cradle robber. But Harvey and Iris share a special connection and together the two of them are content and spend happy summer days wondering the stone-hedged grounds of their ancestral home in Cornwall, England.The house has all of the essential trappings of classic spooky real estate. You have the underground tomb where the remains of the family’s forebears reside. The ancient, musty library containing the knowledge of antiquity as well as tomes on magic and the dark arts. Finally, just to round out the atmosphere, you have the mad, raving grandfather kept isolated from the children who screams fire and brimstone into the night talking of demons and God’s judgment.[Like I said, a great Halloween read.] After some wonderful, foreshadowing back-story in the guise of creepy tales of dead-raised, soulless corpses and a play called “The Tragic Tale of Isis and Osiris”, the emotional content gets cranked to “gut-wrenching” when an “accident” shatters Iris’ world. Soon Iris discovers that she has the ability to set things right. But should she? MY THOUGHTSI thought this story was extremely well-told and the illustrations perfectly compliment the mood and the tone of Clegg’s writing. Throughout the piece, I think the author did a nice job of striking the right balance between story flow, background development and emotional investment. Most impressive for me was the ending that conjureed images in my mind that were so filled with pain, longing and regret that it raised the whole story to another level. Powerful and engaging. This is a quick read but one that will stay with you. 4.0 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

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I started reading this novella with fairly low expectations—I was reading it for participation in a group (Cult Books) and wasn’t convinced it met the criteria for inclusion in the group’s discussion at all—it does, I suppose, but that says almost as much bad about the title as good about it. In any case, …Isis Villiers, the novel’s protagonist, after an idyllic childhood on a sun-drenched American island, moves with her family to Cornwall and a remote mansion before her father goes off to support his family through his role as an arms merchant or some other war profiteer. The estate, which screams this-is-a-Gothic-novel, is surrounded by stone walls which include the Villiers’ family tomb. Oh, the estate also is visited annually by a dark, dreary storm season followed by a sunny, barefoot season, as different as night and day and which reflects the changing mood swings of Isis’ laudanum imbibing mother. In spite of the dire warnings Isis hears about the dead being recalled to life, the local history replete with examples of the dead’s returns taking forms very different from the intentions of those who called them back, Isis is unable to resist the temptation to call back someone particularly close to her. Sound predictable so far? It is. It’s when Isis’ own call-back appears that the story takes the form of Mitch-Albom-does-a-Twilight-Zone-episode and this reader’s expectations bottomed out. Holy Shit! This cannot end like this! This totally sucks! But then, the joke was on me, Clegg doesn’t totally sell out with his ending—he comes dangerously close, but he does resist the cliché one starts to expect.So I’m puzzled about the rating; I won’t decide until I actually post the review—something between 3 and 4 stars, I’m just not sure. Did I like it? Kinda. Can I recommend it? I can recommend it to genre-readers. Horror fans might not find it horrific enough; fantasy fans might not find it fantastic enough; Gothic novel fans—well, who the hell knows what it is they like? I’ve read Gothic novels I’ve liked better Northanger Abbey, for example. To its credit, reading it is very fast. The illustrations are fitting. The back cover has this heading: Praise for Isis and Douglas Clegg. Below that heading are quotes from R.L. Stine, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub. If you find that list impressive, you might well like this book. If like me, you find that list entirely lackluster, you might want to read it anyway (I don't regret it). I hope that if you do read it, you react more favorably than I have and perhaps share the experience that some of my GR friends have had. If nothing else, you'll have the knowledge that someone, somewhere, thinks you've read a 'cult classic.'
—Mike Puma

The story is of a young girl, Iris, and her two brothers who live in a house with their cloistered mother and mentally ill grandfather. Iris finds solace in her friendship with her brother, Horace, and the Gothic tales that the gardener tells her. Tragedy strikes when Harvey dies in a horrific accident that causes her to create a bargain with Death that will allow Harvey to come back to her. Of course, the deal is not what she expected and Iris must choose between her brother's happiness and her own.Perhaps the most interesting and likable aspect of the book, are illustrations that are interspersed throughout the novella. They beautiful black and white sketches that correspond with the current action, however, they add even more to the novel than the text does. Though there are gothic aspects in the novella, I felt that the pictures are what gave the novel its eerie tone and creepy atmosphere.Overall, I was disappointed by this selection. After doing some background reading on the novella, I found that this is in fact the prequel to one of Clegg's series. Yet, having read this book first, it is doubtful that I will pick up another one of his works. Perhaps it would have been better if Clegg merely worked the background of these characters into the rest of his series and not created an entire novella dedicated to this story because it does not seem to be able to stand alone as a
—Dani Peloquin

Douglas Clegg's Isis is a supremely creepy novella, with a fascinating Gothic aftertaste. According to my research, this novella is meant to provide a back story for a series of novels by Douglas Clegg. I will definitely be putting his other works on my lengthy tbr list! Isis is deliciously eerie and captivating. Iris is a well-written and sympathetic character and the setting and auxiliary characters are fantastic. I thoroughly expect the story to haunt my dreams tonight! Isis is thrilling and chilling - a truly satisfying tale of the world of the supernatural, told using the backdrop of the mythos of Isis and Osiris. Unique and interesting, Isis is also a quick and effortless read, easily conquered in just a couple hours time. I recommend it for any fan of classic horror. The spooky atmosphere Clegg has conjured in Isis will be well worth your time.

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