Page Count 320
Publication date September 2022
Publisher Titan Books
When Lady Mae turns 18, she’ll inherit her mother’s ghastly job as the Butcher: dismembering Settlement Five’s guilty criminals as payment for their petty crimes. But then their leaders, known as the Deputies, come to Lady Mae’s house, and there in the living room murder her mother for refusing to butcher a child.
Within twenty-four hours, now alone in the world, Lady Mae begins her gruesome job. But a chance meeting years later puts her face to face with the Deputy that murdered her mother. Now Lady Mae must choose: will she flee, and start another life in the desolate mountains, forever running? Or will she seek vengeance for her mother’s death even if it kills her?
I was initially drawn in by the cover and concept; A young woman who will inherit a predecided career path from the mothers before her- the town ‘Butcher’. Charged with the purpose of doling out criminal justice via mutilation, quite literally an eye for an eye.
The writing was easy to follow but definitely in need of heavier editing. There’s a fair amount of unnecessary repetition that slows the pace, in one case an entire paragraph was almost word for word lifted from a previous chapter.
Written in third person, past tense, the main character Lady Mae is addressed as such continuously, a glance at each page reveals the name several times within every paragraph- often where a pronoun would easily suffice. The overuse of Lady Mae’s name gave the prose a clunky quality that distracted me, I wasn’t enveloped in the story as I usually would be.
Something I found most interesting was the punishment for blasphemy is much more severe than any other crime. Indicative of the way our own society seems to be headed. [REDACTED; long and winding rant about the state of the world that has no business in a book review!]
After the death of her mother, Lady Mae has short bursts of conversation with her in her imagination. I thought this endearing, it emphasised the fragility and loneliness Lady Mae was experiencing and made me care for her more.
What I did not like was the constant use of sentences such as this one;
“She did not know what she meant other than YOU SHOULD BE and DEAD LIKE MY MAMA”
Lady Mae’s inner thoughts are constantly broken up with ‘and’ for no discernable reason.
There were also discrepancies such as a man described as having a ‘shaven head’ on the next page is seen to have ‘hair matted wet to his forehead’. A man hiding in the hills somehow sending and receiving letters and parcels. Letters that would apparently be screened by the deputies and yet were filled with secrets? It just didn’t tie up.
The relationship between Lady Mae and Arbuckle was a long slow trudge through the oft referenced drought their settlement seemed to constantly endure.
Particularly tiring to read whilst we ourselves were simultaneously amidst a heatwave causing drought. I discovered when you’re hot and agitated it doesn’t help to be reading of flat, dusty hot lands. If I’m honest perhaps extenuating circumstances affected my opinion of this book.
I’m sorry to the author, you made me care for Lady Mae and Arbuckle but I cannot recommend this novel.
Upon visiting Goodreads after writing this review to compare other readers thoughts, I noticed the very first rating put up was by the author awarding HERSELF 5 stars. Ick.
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