Cover Image: Starling House

Starling House

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There was just so much to love about this one! Compelling characters, evocative writing, intriguing mystery... This one was definitely a treat! Definitely checked all the boxes for a gothic fairy tale!
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Very atmospheric and spooky read, with a lot of humanity at its heart! Flawed, imperfect main leads that you will be able to relate to and sympathize with. Worth the read!
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I love everything Alix E. Harrow has written, so it’s no surprise that I love this. Starling House is possibly my favorite book of 2023 😍
Starling House is many things: A ghost story, a romance, a family drama, a haunted house saga, an exploration of rage and exploitation. It’s full of dark shadows and foreboding vibes, a story about the monsters that lurk in imagined places and those that exist in the harsh light of the real world. It’s about lost people and broken places, and the longing for a place to belong. 

Opal has been raising her younger brother since their mom died, and her only focus is making enough money to get Jasper out of Eden, a dying coal town. But Opal has dreams about the Starling House, of claws and teeth and monsters, and she’s drawn to it. A chance encounter with Arthur Starling gets her a well paid house cleaning job at Starling House, but before long the house starts to feel like something Opal has been afraid to dream about - a home. 

As sinister forces converge on Starling House, Opal and Arthur are going to have to make a decision to dig up the buried secrets of the past and confront their own fears, or let Eden be taken over by literal nightmares. If Opal wants a home, she’ll have to fight for it.

Opal is cynical, clever, prickly, selfish and brave. She does what she has to do to survive, and I’ve never rooted for someone as much as I rooted for her. 

From the author: “I think what I wanted to say about class and poverty is that poverty is a form of violence and horror in and of itself," Harrow says, "and that those experiences do emotional and physical harm.”

Harrow is a brilliantly gifted writer and I recommend everything she’s written ❤️
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This was really beautifully written but took me forever to get into. The plot took a direction I was not expecting and by the end I wasn't sure how I felt about all of it. Not my favorite but I can see why many people would love this.

Thanks to the publisher for the advanced copy!
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Look. I love a novel with footnotes. Footnotes in a novel happen when the author has a world that is so big and rich that it has to spill over into the margins of the book to fit it all in. Starling House starts out with footnotes. It has haunted houses, and haunted families. Sure, the main character, Opal, can verge on being nothing just a Tragic Example of Poverty and Pain,  and the romance a little pat, however Harrow's love of language, world building, and the occasional snarky aside kept me engaged through out.
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A gorgeous southern Gothic tale from Alix E. Harrow. I absolutely loved the combination of fantasy, horror, and Gothic elements. The amazing characters are amazing, despite their flaws, and I loved all of the interactions between them. This book also depicts one of the best sibling relationships I've ever read. This will easily make my 'best books of the year' list!
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I've loved Alix Harrow's past books and novellas, but this was not my favorite of hers. Still compelling and incredibly readable, but something about it didn't fully land for me.
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When Alix writes a book, I read it. This was a very interesting take on a haunted house. We have a scrappy protagonist Opal who tends to make the worst decisions unless it involves her brother Jasper who she will do anything for. I liked how Alix worked in a little romance as well with Arthur, the current owner of the Starling House. The house itself was like it's own character and I enjoyed how we were slowly putting the pieces together. I was expecting a little more "magic" based on Alix's other books, but as always her writing was phenomenal.
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A haunted house written by Alix Harrow?? Sign me up! Alix Harrow can do no wrong. I will read any book, genre, trope, phone book or list she decides to write. Starling House is immersive and original. I devoured it!
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um, wtf??? this book was so good?? it was NOTHING like I expected and like nothing I’ve ever read. I love a sentient house (think house of wind) + found family + taking down problematic rich white men + lovable outcast characters. just all of it - *chefs kiss* my ONLY complaint is that the main villain ended up feeling like a huge loose end/unanswered question in the end, but overall, this book was freaking fantastic and was a great way to wrap up spooky season. highly recommend!
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The tale this novel relates is a tale of ancient monsters in the dark limestone bones of Kentucky. Or is it? Where do the monsters come from? What is the story of the house that appears to shelter them? Why does Opal dream of a house and its monsters she's never seen? And, more down to earth, how do the residents of a Kentucky mining town survive after the mine company has taken all it wants and left only poisoned earth and water?

This book, full of southern gothic lore, changed my life. I'm just not yet sure how...
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Opal has been dreaming of Starling House, but the house seems to have dreams of its own… Starling House by Alix E. Harrow is a brilliant Gothic fantasy which came out earlier this month. With a sentient house, a cursed family, and long-buried secrets rising to the surface, this book puts Kentucky Gothic on the map. 

Opal has two lists: her Wants and her Needs. The only thing on her Needs list is taking care of her younger brother Jasper. Her Wants list has been crumpled up and buried deep inside herself. Ever since their mother died when her car plummeted into the river, Opal has done whatever she had to—mostly lying, cheating, and stealing—to carve out a simple existence for herself and her brother in the small, backwoods town of Eden, Kentucky. Saving up money to get Jasper out of this town and on a path to a better life is the only thought that gets her through the days working at the Tractor Supply store. But at night, she dreams about Starling House, the large, decaying mansion at the edge of town where Opal’s favorite children’s book The Underland was written and where the last heir of a strange, reclusive family now lurks, getting up to who knows what sort of devilry. Arthur Starling is brooding, ill-mannered, and maybe a little insane, but when he offers Opal a job as a housekeeper she can’t resist the pull of the house. However, the more she learns about the house, about the Starling legacy, and about the bad luck that haunts the town of Eden, the more Opal realizes they are all tangled up together with her own past—and her future.

One of my favorite characters in this book is Starling House itself. After more than a century of serving as the focal point of supernatural activity, the house has acquired a certain level of sentience. It has a symbiotic relationship with the Wardens who live within it, although in Arthur’s case, the relationship can often be antagonistic as he grows to resent his role in the house and the tragic memories it holds for him. The house can alter its architecture and its grounds to protect itself from outsiders or appeal invitingly to friends. Opal immediately and naturally bonds with the house, even before she accepts the full extent of supernatural goings-on. Her first instinct is to pity and relate to the house as a fellow lonely and neglected creature. When the house frightens or frustrates her she talks to it, and as housekeeper she lovingly cleans and restores the rooms and furnishings. The house, meanwhile, repays her by opening locked doors, caressing her with sunlight and warm breezes, and offering up its secrets. There’s an extra temptation in this magical, magnificent house for someone who’s never quite felt like she had a home. 

As is often the case in Gothic works centered on an old family home, legacy and identity are important themes in this novel. As an orphan with no known last name (her mother had a tendency to constantly invent new surnames on a whim), Opal struggles to figure out who exactly she is and where she belongs. The Starling name, meanwhile, is not one passed down by blood. Every few decades (usually after the previous Warden of the house dies a mysterious death), a stranger finds themself drawn to the house by their dreams and takes on the Starling name along with the duties of the Warden. The Starlings are often contrasted with the Gravelys, the most powerful family in Eden who view their surname as signaling a birthright to the land and its resources and anything else they want. As Opal learns, names can contain important information about one’s past, but they do not have to determine one’s future. Everyone has a choice in when to shoulder old legacies and when to start again new. 

Starling House is a love letter to the Gothic genre, to old spooky houses, and to outcasts—I highly recommend checking it out!
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Horror is among my least favorite genres, but this was so beautifully written. Harrow imbues her descriptions of a down-on-its-luck Appalachian mining town with an elegiac beauty. Opal and Arthur are both such wonderful characters, strong and brittle at the same time. And it was extremely satisfying to see all the characters get their just deserts at the very end.
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Alix E. Harrow perfectly blended mystery and gothic vibes into this unforgettable, unique fantasy following Opal and THE House’s secrets in a small town that has many unlucky occurrences. 
I loved how the characters’ flaws were portrayed and how morally grey they all  felt, how even the mansion had its own quirky personality.
The twists in the story will just add more fuel to your already burning appreciation for this glorious novel!

Thank you so much for the Publisher , Netgalley and Alix E. Harrow for the gifted earc. My opinion is entirely my own.
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One of my highly anticipated books for this year and worth the hype. 

I went in a bit weary: I don't read horror/spooky books but this book has just a dash of spookiness to make it interesting, but still tolerable for anyone like me. 

Opal is a well written character, and far from flat. She's likeable but not in a way that feels unrealistic.

Bonus points for how great of a character the house itself is.

4.5 rounded up.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Tor Publishing & Alix E. Harrow for an arc of Starling House in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis quote & review below.

"I dream sometimes about a house I’ve never seen….

Opal is a lot of things—orphan, high school dropout, full-time cynic and part-time cashier—but above all, she's determined to find a better life for her younger brother Jasper. One that gets them out of Eden, Kentucky, a town remarkable for only two things: bad luck and E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth century author of The Underland, who disappeared over a hundred years ago.

All she left behind were dark rumors—and her home. Everyone agrees that it’s best to ignore the uncanny mansion and its misanthropic heir, Arthur. Almost everyone, anyway.

I should be scared, but in the dream I don’t hesitate.

Opal has been obsessed with The Underland since she was a child. When she gets the chance to step inside Starling House—and make some extra cash for her brother's escape fund—she can't resist.

But sinister forces are digging deeper into the buried secrets of Starling House, and Arthur’s own nightmares have become far too real. As Eden itself seems to be drowning in its own ghosts, Opal realizes that she might finally have found a reason to stick around.

In my dream, I’m home.

And now she’ll have to fight.

Welcome to Starling House: enter, if you dare."

Oy vey - I had such high, HIGH hopes for the book, but unfortunately, it fell short for me. I really think the problem is me, though. I also wasn't a fan of Ten Thousand Doors of January and I know that it was wildly popular as is Starling House. I guess I am just not a fan of Harrow's work, unfortunately.

The pacing was done well and I enjoyed the characters and actually most of the story, except for the last 25% of the book. The explanation and conclusion just didn't work for me and I absolutely hate the ending. But that's just me.

I would still promote this book as I feel like many others will enjoy it even though it wasn't my favorite.
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While this was certainly an atmospheric read, I didn't expect the fun and dry humour bits, the odd Lemony Snicket like characterizations. It was giving a lot of Series of Unfortunate Events with supernatural for adults. While I didn't love any of the characters, I found myself wrapped up in their problems and flaws until the very end.
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In Eden, Kentucky, there is a strange house that belonged to Eleanor Starling, the author of The Underland who disappeared. Everyone in the town avoids the house, and it’s occupant, Arthur Starling, at all costs. Opal has lived in Eden for most of her life. She lives in a motel with her younger brother, who she wants to give the best life. Opal has always been drawn to Starling House, seeing it in her dreams and nightmares, so when Arthur offers her a job with a huge paycheck, she accepts. However, Starling House is more haunted than Opal expected. Opal and Arthur must battle the beasts in the house before their nightmares take over. 

Eleanor Starling’s book The Underland was based on her life at Starling House. Since Opal loved that book, she got to live in her favourite story when she went to the house, which is a reader’s dream. I think the story would have had more tension if it was a little shorter. There were some long descriptions and drawn out scenes that could have been condensed. At the beginning of the story, there were footnotes that expanded on what was written in a funny way. I wished those footnotes continued to the end of the story because they were entertaining. 

Starling House is a spooky, gothic novel. 

Thank you Tor Books and Raincoast Books for providing a copy of this book!

Content warnings: death of parent, drowning, car accident
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#StarlingHouse is a deliciously creepy haunted house story for those who enjoy creepy but not terrifying tales. 
A great book for readers who enjoy mysterious spooky houses with enigmatic, broody residents; books that incorporate another book or story nestled inside; antiheroes doing their best in a world that only offers up disaster and hardship. 

I enjoyed the pacing, I found the characters likable and the resolution was complete and satisfying. My only complaint is there wasn’t enough from the house. Evidently, I’m a fan of the “sentient house trope” and would have absolutely leaned into the house as a character. 😆 A fun read that I certainly recommend. One that I was so immersed in, I forgot I’d have to review it later and just allowed the story to sweep me away.
Thanks to #Netgalley for the opportunity to read this as an #ARC
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Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

Other Books I Enjoyed by This Author: My Introduction to her work

Affiliate Link:

Release Date: October 3rd, 2023

General Genre: Dark Fantasy, Magical Realism, Gothic

Sub-Genre/Themes: Orphaned siblings, brother & sister relationships, haunted house, small-town drama, housekeeping, identity, family curses, secrets, romance

Writing Style: Multiple POVs, *Footnotes, Intricately plotted

What You Need to Know: Horror fiction fans, and genre readers need to know that Starling House leans hard toward Dark Fantasy/Magical Realism fiction; a modern fairytale (surprisingly, this book reminded me a lot of Beauty & the Beast) with Gothic undertones. 

My Reading Experience: I had an odd reading experience. I felt fully committed during the first third of this book. I enjoyed the style of the storytelling voice and the “rough-around-the-edges” protagonist, Opal who cares for her sixteen-year-old brother, Jasper after they were orphaned. She has a quiet obsession with a seemingly abandoned “haunted house” in her small town. One day, she crosses paths with a young man who lives there and they begin a curious, working relationship when he offers her a housekeeping job.

There are footnotes throughout the narrative that I skimmed or skipped, more distracting to the flow than enhancing it.
During the second act, the middle of the book, the author pulls in several storylines surrounding Starling House that start to muddle the plot; unsuccessful genre-blending. 
Gothic themes of the estate, a cursed history, a brooding young man with secrets, the potential for romance, and paranormal or supernatural elements mashed into a fairytale about a female writer/heiress who wrote a book called, Underland, and lives in a magical house with “beasts” combined with an antagonistic, meddling, corporate woman who wants to buy the house/land and at any cost. Just a lot going on and the storylines compete with each other instead of complimenting each other. The modern tone of the dialogue felt out of place in the atmosphere of the Gothic Fairytale.
The texting between the two leads, Arthur and Opal diffused any Gothic romance chemistry for me, and during an intimate sex scene, Opal says, “Christ on a bicycle!”
The fact that Opal heads to a library to research Starling House instead of a Google Search–I mean, it was difficult to settle into those Gothic or fairytale vibes with so much modern life tamping them down. I was disappointed when I finally discovered what was going on with Arthur and Starling House–the last third of the book unraveled for me.

Final Recommendation: This book is perfect for dark fantasy fans looking for a haunted house story that feels like a retelling of an old fairytale.

Comps: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling, The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa M. Matlin, Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison
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