I suppose the correct label for Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein is the oxymoron realistic fantasy with a touch of Victorian literature. While there are aspects of this book which I found fascinating, there are other parts which flatlined for me.
The best part of the book is the story described in Emily’s Diary which evolves around the Order and events surrounding Emily’s ability to see into the hearts of the people around her. Emily is trying to confess her sins to her patroness, Lady Dorothy Westingate, who she considers a friend in spite of the wrongs she has done through her soothsaying abilities. This should have been the novel Lisa wrote, in an expanded version, of course.
Instead, the plot evolves around Mollie, an unwitting descendent of Emily who finds herself in the middle of a mystery as she searches for answers about her past. Undercover detective, John Stow, has been hired to discover some truths and all answers must go through Mollie, the key player. Mollie has been brought up by her Great Aunt, Fentrice Allalie, after her own parents were killed in a car accident when she was three.
Part of the problem which makes the story confusing is the continuous lies and innuendos leading us down false paths of truth. I realize that Lisa Goldstein was trying to duplicate the maze experience for her readers, but the result was more frustrating than enlightening. The fact that it was easy to solve the mystery, in spite of the misdirections, spoils the suspense. There is also the matter of poor character development. For some reason, they never seem to come alive or make us sympathetic towards their plight. The most interesting person is Emily who is just a part of the back story. And some of the people in the book seem to be thrown in to assist in the numerous plot twists, which instead of thrilling the reader, are at times either confusing or too drawn out. The character of Mollie is a enigma in that she doesn’t appear to demonstrate an inkling of magical ability even though the reader learns she is part of this illusionist family.
However, if Goldstein were to get rid of the murder plot and the obnoxious, no good boyfriend, and some of the other minor characters and focus instead on Emily with a backstory involving Mollie and her search for truth, then the dynamics can be refocused into an interesting novel full of fantasy from the past, present, and future. Tighten up the plot, get rid of erroneous characters, and develop the key players so we understand their motivation.
Still, there was enough drama to keep me interested, so I give this book three stars.
I wish to thank the Open Road Publishers for asking me to review this book through Netgalley and give my honest opinion.