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Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings #BookReview

In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes question her memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure.

A beguiling story that proves that gothic delights and uncanny family horror can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun, Flyaway introduces readers to Bettina Scott, whose search for the truth throws her into tales of eerie dogs, vanished schools, cursed monsters, and enchanted bottles.

In these pages Jennings assures you that gothic delights, uncanny family horror, and strange, unsettling prose can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun.

Holly Black describes as “half mystery, half fairy tale, all exquisitely rendered and full of teeth.” Flyaway enchants you with the sly, beautiful darkness of Karen Russell and a world utterly its own.

Title: Flyaway | Author: Kathleen Jennings | Publisher: | Pub. Date: 28 July 2020 | Pages: 176 | ISBN: 9781250260499 | Genre: Fantasy/Horror | Language: English | Source: Library | Unstarred Review

Flyaway Review

Well, friends, I continue to be a sucker for a good cover. Once again, this one was a complete cover read for me. And once again, the contents didn’t quite live up to that stunning cover.

Flyaway is a slim novella, part folktale and part mystery. Bettina Scott is a borderline Stepford daughter in small town Australia. She’s polite to the point of being creepy, shunned by her tight-knit community because of her manners and her nosy, controlling mother. But when a mysterious note arrives in the mail addressed to “Tink,” a nickname used only by her estranged older brothers, Bettina begins to question her memories.

There’s no doubt that this book is gorgeously written. The author’s prose brings the landscape to life, and I found myself completely immersed in the setting of Runagate and the surrounding towns. Unfortunately, the lovely writing wasn’t enough to keep me invested in the story itself.

While Flyaway is billed as both fantasy and horror on Goodreads, I saw much more of the fantasy elements here. Some of the folktales have some body horror elements, and the last third or so of the main plot features these elements as well, but overall the story reads more dark fairytale than straight up horror. I did enjoy the format alternating between the overarching mystery and folktales from each characters past, but the strength of the folktale chapters also served to show how sparse the main plot was. With how short the book was, taking up half the length with tangents that only vaguely related to the main plot really underscored the shortcomings of the mystery. Bettina’s personality changes never feel totally fleshed out, and I found the dialogue between her and her friends to be quite stilted. There are also a LOT of relationships to keep track of, and I found it difficult to keep them straight across the many generations involved.

While this wasn’t a terrible novella, I did find my attention wandering, which isn’t ideal given how short the book is. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a different kind of folklore, but I’d advise against expecting a straightforward horror novella.

You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inFantasy Book ReviewsUnstarred Reviews

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