I received a digital advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Splendor by Breeana Shields. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Breeana Shields’ novel, there is a famous hotel, The Splendor, that specializes in making your wildest dreams come true. As orphans, sisters Juliette and Clare can’t even imagine such a place. But when Clare gets to visit, she returns as a different person. She’s distant and quiet, treating Juliette like an inconvenience. So Juliette sets off for the Splendor to get answers. There, she finds a place of opulence and finery, but also deception and secrets. Even as she grows close to Henri, a worker there, she isn’t sure who she can trust, or what she can believe.
This was an intriguing novel!
I liked Juliette as a protagonist—you want her to solve this mystery, not only for her sister’s sake, but simply because the Splendor is such an interesting place. It’s designed to trick you, so seeing Juliette fight against its power in order to succeed is great. She is sympathetic and intelligent without being one-note. The other main character, Henri, is also well-rounded, and I loved the unreliable-narrator thing Shields did with him.
As the story progresses, and these two characters grow closer, you get to see more and more of the seedy underbelly of the hotel. The atmosphere in this book is excellent: full of luxury, but also so obviously—to the reader, at least—composed of lies. The magic feels vivid, but ominous at the same time, as does the hotel as a whole. If you like books like The Night Circus, you’ll definitely like this.
I found the examination of memory to be quite interesting, as well. The magic system hinges on manipulating the mind, and the plot focuses a lot on the loss of memories, and Shields gives the subject lots of layers and nuance. And when the stakes grow higher, the action sequences are heart-pounding. All in all, a well structured plot I often didn’t want to put down.
In the end, The Splendor is a wonderful novel with a memorable setting, good characters, and a hauntingly magical plot. The romance wasn’t all that compelling to me, but it’s a minor aspect in this overall fascinating story.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
The Splendor will be published on September 7th, 2021!