The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 6:34 AM

Rating: 4/5 stars.

I had an inkling I'd enjoy this book, based on how much I've liked Clement-Moore's supernatural Nancy Drew-meets-Buffy Prom Dates from Hell series. And I wasn't disappointed.

Sylvie Davis is a ballerina; dancing is her entire life. She has worked tirelessly for years to build her career, to become the youngest prima ballerina in her company. Then, in a single freak moment, her entire future falls apart. After all, who ever heard of a ballerina with a broken leg?

And then her divorced mother remarries Sylvie's psychiatrist, and Sylvie gets shipped off to Alabama to spend some quality time with her deceased father's family.

Life sucks, no?

But thankfully we've got a heroine with chutzpah, who may not be underprivileged but who doesn't take herself too seriously -- not at all the snobby, stuck-up princess type you'd expect. Ballerinas work hard, and that means knowing your own limits as well as your abilities. Sylvie has a wry, clear-eyed view that makes her situation a lot more interesting than the typical 'rich girl shipped to Podunk, Nowhere.'

Plus, there are all those ghosts lurking around.

Bluestone Hill, the ancestral Davis mansion, has its share of secrets, and Sylvie finds herself caught up in disturbing visions of the family's past. Not to mention being unwillingly enlisted in the town's future --there are plans for development that threaten to destroy old historical sites like the Cahawba Old Town remains, and not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of turning into another tourist-trap for cityfolk.

The conflict is nicely personified in the form of two boys, of course -- the handsome but infuriating Rhys, an archaeology grad student from Wales who excels at getting under Sylvie's skin, and the charming Tom-Sawyer-Golden-Boy-of-the-South Shawn Maddox, who takes a marked interest in Sylvie's arrival (and for reasons beyond 'rich girl from NYC,' it seems). Of course, things aren't simple, as both boys seem to be hiding something. Rhys is decidedly cagey about his supposed 'research' in the area, while Shawn is head of the Teen Town Council, a youth group that seems to have the run of the town and gives off an eerie Leave It To Beaver vibe.

Tugged by these opposing attractions, tangled up in her own emotional turmoil over the loss of her dancing career and coming to terms with her father's death -- Sylvie has to wonder if she's cracking up when she starts seeing the woman running in the woods, or feeling the chill of an old Colonel's stare on the deserted landing. But then she finds the diary, and starts doing her own digging into Bluestone Hill's past...

Satisfyingly rich and well-paced, this book held up for its length and kept me caught up in Sylvie's story all the way through. Rhys and Shawn were excellent as well, and the supporting cast (Paula, the unofficial matriarch of Bluestone Hill; Addie, the snotty Girl Rival) were also well drawn. The only complaint I have is in the conclusion; after all that buildup, things were wrapped up a bit too quickly for my taste. But it didn't hurt my enjoyment of the book overall, and the characters and setting were so vibrant that when I turned the last page I was mostly just disappointed to be leaving Bluestone Hill and Clement-Moore's Haunted South.

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