The Transient (The Castle Trilogy #1) by M.W. Russell
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Pages: 232 pages
Source: Author Request
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Melodie Gibson was born in New Zealand, but traveled all over the world with her surfer father and most recently lived in Australia. Her father and her deceased mother both came from wealthy families, but neither cared for the outer trappings of wealth, and certainly had no interest in offering Melodie a stable, middle-class upbringing. Melodie loves her father, who is easy-going, adventurous, and truly fond of her, too, but she's always wished they could settle down. Then suddenly, her wish unexpectedly comes true when her father inherits a bed and breakfast in upper New York State that has been in his family for 150 years, and is so enormous, it is rightfully called Heartworth Castle. Melodie soon learns that the castle has a reputation with the locals for being haunted, a rumor that she is amazed to discover is actually quite true when she encounters a handsome, teenage ghost on the property.
The author has included information in her blurb about this book which I myself would have considered a "spoiler," but since she has offered it herself, I will include it here as well: "THE TRANSIENT is the first installment in the completed 'Castle Trilogy' which creates an original mythology with roots in classical and biblical literature, where the afterlife is as complicated as the present, and the rules are just as hard to follow. It centres around Melodie, a socially awkward teenager, and Joseph, a 'Transient ghost' who can take human form and who was murdered by a spurned love in the latter stages of the Civil War. No one is supposed to be able to see Joseph--but Melodie Gibson does. This unexplained contact sparks a passionate romance between the two. As Mel settles into her new American home and begins making mortal friends, she falls for Joseph, but not before the Governance and some old enemies of Joseph's begin to materialize against them. Apparently, not everyone is happy about their new found love."
Generally, in romance fiction, when the heroine falls in love with a ghost, there are two possible endings of the story if it is to be a traditional, HEA (happily ever after) romance: (1) The ghost hero comes back to life (there are strong hints this possibility exists within the magic of this story's fictional world), (2) the heroine dies, either in her youth or in old age, and becomes a ghost and joins with the hero in the afterlife (this version has rarely been done). Neither of these possibilities occurs in this book, but I did not expect it to, because this is a trilogy, and if there is to be a HEA, it will occur at the end of the third book. At any rate, the main source of surprise in HEA romance is not in how the story ends, but the journey of the romance itself. In a trilogy like this, the journey of the romance is expanded across three books, rather than one book in the case of a stand-alone novel.
In this, book 1 of the trilogy, the author establishes her magical world, which contains a rather unique approach to ghosts and the mythology surrounding them. In addition, she has offered an important element frequently found in young-adult fiction, a coterie of friends who serve as companions and allies to the heroine. The three friends in this story, two girls and a boy, are all seventeen like Melodie, and they are convincingly portrayed appropriate to their age.
The setting is also quite unusual and interesting in this novel, with a Gothic castle for the heroine's home. The heroine's Australian background and unusual (to an American) use of English adds a fascinating element to the story as well.
Melodie is a strong, sympathetic heroine, and Joseph is a wonderful hero. I really enjoyed their relationship, especially the magical elements related to Joseph's ghostly powers. The two of them have a great deal of unsupervised time together and this, combined with the fact that Joseph is capable of physically expressing his affection for Melodie, adds an intriguing element of sensuality to the story. However, much as Meg Cabot did in her ghostly Mediator series, this author has chosen to keep her story a "clean read," with no sexuality beyond kissing and hugs between Melodie and Joseph.
I rate this book as follows:
Romantic Hero: 5
Fantasy World-Building Plot: 5
Romance Plot: 5
Mystery Plot: 4