Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

Goodreads Choice Award- Nominee for Best Fantasy (2023)

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow is a haunting and mesmerising novel that blends fantasy and mystery in a gothic setting.

“Starling House was no longer just a house. What had begun as stone and mortar had become something more, with ribs for rafters and stone for skin. It has no heart, but it feels; it has no brain, but it dreams.”

The story follows Opal, a young woman who dreams of a mysterious house that calls to her, and Arthur, the reclusive owner of the house who hides a dark secret. Together, they must unravel the mysteries of Starling House, a place where dreams and nightmares come to life, and where magic and horror coexist.

“He is a ghost, a rumor, a story whispered after the children have gone to bed, and she was cold and hurt, all alone in the rising dark – and yet she hadn’t run from him until he told her to. The house has always had a taste for the brave ones.”

Harrow’s writing is beautiful and atmospheric, creating a vivid and immersive world that draws the reader in.

“I know exactly why Icarus flew so high: when you’ve spent too long in the dark, you’ll melt your own wings just to feel the sun on your skin.”

The house itself is a fascinating character, with its own personality, history, and secrets. The author skillfully weaves in elements of folklore, art, and mythology, adding depth and richness to the story. The plot is well-paced and intriguing, with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the end.

“He doesn’t look like a dancer. He looks like a boy who wanted to grow flowers but was handed a sword instead.”

The characters are complex, each with their own flaws and strengths. Opal is a brave and loyal heroine, who struggles with her past and her identity. Arthur is a mysterious and charming hero, who hides his pain and his power. Their relationship is sweet and genuine, with moments of humour and tenderness. They are both misfits and outcasts, who find solace and acceptance in each other and in Starling House.

“I know that part of the story must be made up, because there’s no such thing as curses or cracks in the world, but maybe that’s all a good ghost story is: a way of handing out consequences to the people who never got them in real life.”

Starling House Roelia ReadsStarling House is a gothic fairy tale that explores themes of love, belonging, dreams, and monsters. It is a captivating and enchanting read that will appeal to fans of fantasy, mystery, and horror. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story with a haunted house feeling, magic and mystery, and beautiful writing.

Some of the aspects that I enjoyed most about this book are:

  • Haunted house feeling
  • Moody and tense and spooky
  • Magic and mystery
  • Beautiful writing.
  • Rabbit hole of storytelling, strange beasts, nightmares and mysteries. .
  • Gothic fairy tale 
  • Misunderstood characters.

“Because I dreamed of Starling House long before I ever saw it. Because sometimes when the light slants soft through the west windows and turns the dust moths into tiny golden fireflies I like to pretend the house belongs to me, or that I belong to it.”

Thank you to Pan MacMillan SA for this review copy!