Violet Hour #1
Whitney A. Miller
Source: ARC from author for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Some call VisionCrest the pinnacle of religious enlightenment.
Others call it a powerful cult.
For seventeen years, Harlow Wintergreen has called it her life.
As the daughter of VisionCrest's patriarch, Harlow is expected to be perfect at all times. She must be considered a paragon of integrity by the other Ministry teens and a future leader in the eyes of the world.
Despite the constant scrutiny Harlow is keeping a dark and dangerous secret, even from her best friend and the boy she loves. She hears a voice in her head that seems to have a mind of its own, plaguing her with violent and bloody visions. It commands her to kill. And the urge to obey is getting harder and harder to control....
The Violet Hour is a haunting story, the kind that terrifies on multiple levels due to some graphically detailed visions and an ending that has us wanting to wrap our reality up in a bear hug and thank it for being nothing like Harlow’s world. Though Harlow’s visions are not for the faint of heart or the extraordinarily squeamish, those who fall into that category (like myself) will still find themselves riveted while being simultaneously horrified, the strength of Ms. Miller’s characters anchoring us to the story even as we strongly consider curling up into a fetal ball and rocking. This story is not all horror however, the heart of it revolving around Harlow and the relationships she has to those closest to her, and it’s these bonds that have us flipping the pages, fully engaged and emotionally invested from beginning to end.
Harlow is an ideal young adult heroine, someone who handles her uncontrollable visions of gore and death with a strength we’re quite positive we'll never possess. Her relationship with best friend Dora is an absolute delight, the connection between the two of them full of humor, inside jokes, and genuine, unwavering support for each other, surprising us by making us smile amidst the truly terrifying backdrop of Harlow’s visions. There’s no cattiness between them, and the lines of communication are open almost all the time–secrets something that are reserved for lesser friendships–and we can’t help but be thankful for a friendship that plays as vital a role in the story as the romance.
The relationship between Harlow and longtime friend Adam is one of the highlights of the story, the history between them making the new distance Adam has recently put in place when we come into this tale all the more painful, our hearts immediately going out to Harlow as she struggles to understand why what used to be so close is now suddenly so far away. What makes us fall madly in love with Harlow however is the way she handles herself when the situation with Adam gets particularly difficult, never allowing his deliberate barbs to hit their mark without letting him know they’ve done so. She neither simply accepts the hostility thrown her way nor stoops to his level by returning fire, instead she lets him see her hurt even as she begins strapping on armor to protect herself from future blows. Despite his harshness with Harlow, Adam is not unlikable in the least as it’s very clear to us something huge happened to him to cause this shift in their relationship, and we read with breath held waiting for the moment when he'll let us know what he's been hiding.
Though there is a romance present, the limelight remains with the mystery of Harlow’s gruesome (and slightly traumatizing) visions, goosebumps and shivers as prevalent while reading as the warmth we feel toward Harlow herself. Things take an increasingly strange turn as the story progresses, the why’s and how’s of certain aspects not entirely clear as we reach the end of this first installment, but a revelation in the very last chapter has our questions fading to the background in the face of a pivotal final twist. Those who hate cliffhangers should be aware going in of this epic turn of events–making the release date for book two seem impossibly far away–but overall The Violet Hour is dark and gritty yet also beautifully emotional, and I can’t wait for more from Ms. Miller.
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