Author: Brunonia Barry
Published: 26 September 2017 By Broadway Books
Personal Context: Blogging for Books provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Initial Thoughts: I came for the cover and title, but stayed for the synopsis. I adore all things mystery, fantasy, and murder-y. The synopsis combines a little of each and a helping of historical knowledge to dig its claws into me.
The death of a teenage boy sparks the re-opening of a decades-old cold case in which three young women, The Goddesses, were slashed to death. Salem’s Chief of Police, John Rafferty, finds help in an unlikely place with the sudden return of Callie Cahill, the grown daughter of one of the victims who has, coincidentally, recently returned to town. Neither John nor Callie believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, a local historian and resident Witch-Trial-Expert is guilty of murder or witchcraft.
Exonerating Rose means crossing paths with a dangerous force. The past and present collides in this harrowing story of vengeance, ignorance, and corruption. If Callie and Rafferty can’t get to the bottom of this mystery in time, Salem may be in for another witch trial, with Rose at its center.
My Review of…
…The Plot and Pace:
This book was such an easy read. Barry did an excellent job of advancing the plot at a consistent pace with the perfect amount of “fluff” that added to the story instead of bogging it down. At just under 500 pages, it isn’t tedious and the suspense keeps the reader on their toes. Barry keeps you guessing until the end, and the twist is cleverly handled.
…The Characters and Relationships:
Everyone in this story is delightfully human. With an urban-fantasy-esque feeling, The Fifth Petal was still able to feel relatable. Filled with flawed, human characters like Callie, Paul, John, and Emily are what make this story excellent. Done mostly from Callie’s perspective, I often over-identified with her, and so, by the end of the story, I found that I had invested myself deeply in her narrative. Her stress was nearly palpable, and I felt her anxiety, her stress, as well as her relief.
…The Writing Style and Mechanics:
Barry’s writing style was incredibly enjoyable. She started each chapter with a short quote from various reference materials that were mentioned in the story that served both to tease the reader with a message about the chapter, and also establish a tone for that part of the story. She exhibited excellently varied sentence length, rich with imagery that made immersion nearly seamless.
…The Message(s) and Theme(s):
Good versus Evil: I would have been surprised if the ideas of good and evil weren’t present in a story about witches. Concepts of white, black, and “gray” magic are found inside. The corruption, or “turning” of good into evil makes many appearances, and the inherent allure of immoral behavior in the face of free-will, is a common theme.
The Corruptive Power of Revenge: I think the biggest theme present in The Fifth Petal is the idea that vengeance and justice are not the same, even though the line between them is fine. Seeking revenge for a perceived wrong only brings more pain, and “an eye for an eye” brings only blindness.
I really did love this book. I knew very little about the Salem Witch trials prior to reading this book, but Barry does an excellent job of introducing historical knowledge in a way that is enlightening instead of pedantic. There is just enough in there to explain any possible confusion, while not being obtrusive. Callie is a wonderfully complex character. Having survived immense trauma as a child, her behavior matches that of a person who suffered greatly. Her imperfection is likely her most engaging quality, because it makes her more human and relatable. Her fierce loyalty rivals the staunchest of Gryffindors, and her wit rivals that of the cleverest Ravenclaws. With just a dash of inexplicable supernatural occurrences, The Fifth Petal reads more like a suspenseful mystery than a paranormal fantasy.
“Do you think, inside, every one of us is a killer?” All eyes turned toward Callie as she spoke.
“What?” Towner asked.
Callie was unaware she had spoken the words aloud, and they shocked her. She had no idea where they came from or what they meant, but she could feel Rafferty’s eyes on her, staring. Great, now I’ve got the chief of police suspicious of me. “Nothing,” she said. “Sorry.”