Small Angels by Lauren Owen

Posted On 1 September 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : A haunted forest, very gothic

Small Angles

Small Angels is a book that I enjoyed, I’m going to hold back from saying I loved it, but it certainly had a lot of elements that I enjoy in a story.  The writing was very easy to read and get along with.  I love anything gothic, it’s my absolute-can’t-resist-go-to, add to that a small suspicious village, a haunted forest and a reclusive and secretive family that seem to control things, throw in a dual timeline that slowly reveals events from the past and without doubt you have me hooked.  And, I confess, I was hooked to this (in spite of a few little misgivings which I’ll discuss below).

Firstly, a few words about the story.  Essentially this is a haunted woods story.  Centuries ago the villagers new how to appease the local woods by telling stories but over time these traditions slowly dwindled, Mockbeggar Woods became a place to be avoided, people would become lost and some were never found again.  Blanch Farm is nestled up next to the woods with it’s own church known locally as Small Angels.  The Gonne family inhabit the place and keep alive the rituals and traditions that they believe keep everyone safe, that is until the youngest daughter, believed to be rebellious, starts breaking with tradition and tragedy ensues.

In the present day, Chloe and Sam are planning their wedding.  Their original choice has fallen through and as a last minute arrangement they’ve booked Small Angels and it’s accompanying Barn for the celebrations.  This is a new endeavour.  Tithe Barn has been recently built as a venue and so Chloe and some of her friends and family need to take the week before the wedding to clean both the church and the Barn and dress it for the big event.  Everything goes well.  Everyone is ensconced in the cosy local pub enjoying a glass or two of their favourite tipple when one of the locals decides to enlighten them with some of the local history and from there things begin to slowly unravel.

The setting is fantastic.  Mockbeggar Woods has a life of its own.  Paths seem to appear and disappear at will, sometimes the outline of a figure can be seen on the edge, dogs can be heard and the smell of roses hangs in the air.  Blanch Farm and the seemingly eccentric family that live there are given a wide berth by the rest of the village.  They act as guardians, lighting beacons at the edge of their land and sticking strictly to rules that seem to have been handed down.  Don’t annoy the presence in the woods, don’t interact and definitely do not enter the woods at night.

I really enjoyed the split timeline.  We bounce back and forth spending time amongst the Gonnes and watching events unfold.  This allows us to see just how large a burden Mockbeggar is upon the family.  Things are definitely a little frayed but they have a strange connection to the woods that is slowly revealed.  The bride-to-be seems to be slowly falling under a haunting of her very own, nurtured by the strange secrecy/paranoia of everyone around her she is determined to uncover answers.  Kate is Sam’s sister.  The two have buried events from their past so deeply that they struggle to recall the disastrous events from their past and choose to believe these things were due to wild imagination.

The characters.  Well, some of them are very grumpy and almost difficult to like.  Some are almost detached, willingly choosing to separate themselves from the story and others are simply misunderstood – in fact there’s a lot of that going on.  Kate was my favourite character.  She had a good attitude.  I liked her courage in the face of some scary things and she was easy to follow.  Chloe, well, I didn’t dislike her but I wanted to give her a shake sometimes.  Sam was a bit wishy washy.  The Gonne sisters – intriguing to read about and definitely, although a little eccentric, misunderstood.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this isn’t the fastest read that you’ll ever pick up.  This isn’t something that particularly bothers me but I realise that slow pacing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  On top of this the story more often that not relies on the whole ‘secrecy’ element – to such an extent that people are put at risk, simply because other people won’t tell them what the heck is going on.  There’s a feeling of constant interruption just as you’re about to find something out which can be a bit frustrating and I felt like I wasn’t fully in possession, even by the conclusion, of the facts that led to the haunting.  Things are loosely referred to rather than actually explained, okay, I do understand that this ties in with the whole idea of a creepy forest that is haunted – but, yeah, I had a feeling of having skipped something, even though I know I didn’t.

Slight criticisms aside I think this story is exactly what it promises.  A story that is a haunting.  A forest that appears to have a mind of its own.  Secrets from the past.  Misunderstandings, secrets and superstitions.  Atmosphere aplenty.

I found this very easy to get on with even though it has a slowish pace.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars



4 Responses to “Small Angels by Lauren Owen”

  1. Susy's Cozy World

    Such a beautiful review!! I don’t think this would be the right book for me, because gothic and horror are not my thing, but it sounds like a fascinating and compelling book, and I am glad you enjoyed it so much! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tammy

    This book was not on my radar at all, which is a shame. I love the sound of it!

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I’m intrigued, indeed! The novel’s narrative elements are among my favorites, so I’m certain I could enjoy this story, and if you gave it 4 stars despite the few misgivings you quoted, this might very well turn out into a very satisfying read. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Lexlingua

    Any book tagged as “gothic” immediately grabs my attention. And I have to say, “Mockbeggar Woods” is a lovely haunting name to give to a forest. Most curious, indeed.

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