This gothic-ish fantasy contains a set piece near the beginning, which feels a little Hammer Horror: a woman alone, in a deep, dark wood, running for her life, with a dim awareness of something wicked, just out of sight. With one essential difference: she’s not a waifish ingenue, but a mature woman whose physical limits belie an endearing toughness.
Vivica, a wealthy widow, like almost everyone in Smith’s novel, is haunted. Not just by her regrets and the apparent selfishness of her adult children, but also her dear departed husband, Nils. Were that not enough, there’s also the small matter of a terrible, vampiric creature, encountered in the grounds of her estate.
It’s an irresistible setup which leads to an unusual gear shift from gothic to epic in the plot. Following a further unexpected arrival, Vivica, Nils and the reader travel to a magical parallel land, introducing the gutsy Melantha herself and her quest.
As the story unfolds, Melantha faces various challenges and obstacles, forcing her to prove her worth, in high fantasy fashion. In the meantime, Nils must battle in his own way: for his wife’s eternal soul.
The character development and world building in Melantha: Mansion of the Weeping Wings makes it easy to connect with each character’s emotions and motives. Melantha’s love interest, Liam, proves an excellent addition to the story, providing a charming paranormal-romance subplot of love across the divide.
Smith’s writing style is fluid and engaging, bringing to life the magical world of Melantha. Skilled pacing helps the story unspool naturally, keeping the reader invested in the story throughout.