Saturday, January 23, 2016

REVIEW: The Visitors by Simon Sylvester

Title: The Visitors
Author: Simon Sylvester
Genre: Contemporary/Mythological
Publisher: Melville House
Release Date: December 29/2015
Acquired: E-arc sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Nobody moves to the remote Scottish island of Bancree, and few leave – but leaving is exactly what seventeen-year-old Flora intends to do. So when a mysterious man and his daughter move into isolated Dog Cottage, Flo is curious. What could have brought these strangers to the island? The man is seductive but radiates menace, while Flora finds a kindred spirit in his daughter Ailsa.

Life on Bancree becomes desperate as people begin to disappear. Reports of missing islanders fill the press and unnerve the community. When a body washes ashore, suspicion turns to the newcomers on Dog Rock.

Convinced of their innocence, Flo is fiercely determined to protect her friend Ailsa. Could the answer to the disappearances, and to the pull of her own heart, lie out there, beyond the waves?


AMBIGUITY: my fremeny. The friend I love to hate. The one I invite for dinner, and immediately wish I can send home. I'm SEETHING, but I'm pleasantly soothed. I have such conflicting emotions about The Visitors, and I wanted to work through them before attempting this review, but dammit here I am, and here's what I thought.

Alisa is positive that her boyfriend leaving their childhood home is heartbreaking for two reasons: 1) She'll miss him, maybe, and 2) It should be her leaving instead, she DESERVES it. Bancree has been the only piece of land that Alisa has ever known. Her mother, stepfather, and baby brother Jamie, the only people she really cares to be around. But with Richard gone, and two new neighbours bravely moving into the abandoned beach house on Dog Island, Alisa is about to find out why her childhood town is not yet ready for her to leave. When her stepfather's best friend becomes the third person to go missing in a matter of weeks, Alisa begins to let her imagination run wild with possibilities, and mythological notions. What she ends up finding is friendship, despite it all, but at what cost?

This book was excruciating, in an "OMG WHEN WILL THIS BABY COME" type of way, as opposed to a "this is impossible to read" type. Because it was very possible, and Simon Sylvester is an OUTSTANDING author, and a complete jedi of his craft. But I couldn't take the suspense, I physically couldn't handle the build up-my skin could not CONTAIN the pressure expanding in my very CELLS! You know?...those types of books? The ones where you KNOW there's something a'lurking in the background but it won't for ALL THAT IS HOLY show itself until you're sure you're ready to burst of intense anticipation !?!? The Visitors was that book. Read at your own risk. 

But please DO read it, because the injustice of not doing so will expose itself in the words of the many, many people who will read and enjoy the beauty that this narrative provided. The absolutely breathtaking scenic descriptions of small-town Scotland. Of a storyline so heavily soaked through and dripping with sea salt, and sea air, rock outcroppings, wind-blown shacks, and Gaelic nursery rhymes whispered softly in your ear. The fact that a mythological element was thrown in as the catalyst? Icing on the cake.

In all, I was impressed, and definitely settled into the tone and depth that was so successfully executed in this novel, but, alas, alls well that ends well, and this book did not end well enough for me. A build up like that deserved an EXPLOSION, a deafening BOOM! I wanted my brain to be split in two with the strength of the ending revelations. What I got was a tiny pop, the tiniest of 
shakes to my core, a moment so very fleeting I couldn't even grab a thread as it rushed by *sigh*.

The Visitors had potential to be a solid whole. It didn't deliver it's full peacock-feather allure until the very end, but I'll keep my fond memories of the ride, I'll keep them in such a special place in my mind.

Recommended for Fans of: Mystery, Folklore, Mythology, Neil Gaiman.


Simon Sylvester a writer, teacher and occasional filmmaker. He was born in 1980 and grew up in Scotland, England, Germany and Northern Ireland. He studied English Literature at Lancaster University and Film Production at the University of Bristol.

After years working as a camera assistant and then a magazine journalist, he started writing fiction in 2006. His short stories have been published in a host of journals, anthologies and magazines including Dark Mountain, Gutter, Valve, [PANK], Fractured West, Fire Crane, Southpaw and Smoke: a London Peculiar. He won the Flashtag short short story slam in 2014, and has written more than a thousand very short stories on Twitter.

His debut novel, The Visitors, is published by Quercus Books. It was reviewed by The List as 'intoxicating' and 'enchanting'. He is now working on his second novel, which is called The Hollows.

Simon lives in Cumbria with the painter Monica Metsers and their daughter Isadora. He is represented by the amazing Sue Armstrong, Senior Agent at Conville & Walsh.



Thank-you to Melville House for approving the e-arc copy I requested via Edelweiss for review

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