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REVIEW: The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

Dear Ms Raybourn,

Dead Travel Fast By Deanna Raybourn cover imageYou created a splash in the subgenre of historical mysteries with the “Silent” series and now move on to something a bit different. The era is still Victorian but the place is the depths of Transylvania where the strange is normal and things are believed which defy the imagination of other countries.

With little to hold her in Scotland, Theodora receives a letter from an old school friend which will change her life. She’s been invited to the friend’s arranged wedding to a relative, Count Andrei Dragulescu. So off Theodora goes, with everything she owns, to a Carpathian castle which seems mired in the past and a family which borders on Draconian.

Theodora feels as if she’s in a totally different world from anything she’s ever known, a place where the bizarre is accepted, a land where no one questions the existence of werewolves or vampires and everyone keeps their windows shut tight at night. Can she survive this alien place and find love or will its secrets claim her very life?

This literally has almost all the elements listed for a gothic novel. I looked. You must have looked at numerous sources and checked off each element as you worked it into the plot. The parts makes a satisfying whole yet there is almost nothing new. The book isn’t a parody of gothics, it doesn’t use those standard elements as a springboard to something different, it merely tells a story which has been told many times already. It’s told well, it’s readable, it uses the usual gothic features to convey what you want but unless the status quo is what a reader wants, I’m afraid fans of the genre will find themselves on autopilot to the finish.

I do like that there are explanations for all the supposed supernatural events described. And that the explanations make sense both in the story and in a historical context. I like that the heroine is a strong enough character to go about doing some of her own saving. Even if at the end, she still needed to rely on others for her final salvation, she wasn’t totally weak and fainting. I like that the hero appreciates a smart woman and reading and writing woman even more. There’s a great dog. I even like that both Theodora and Andrei compromise their life goals at the end in order to work towards their HEA.

Yet I found parts of the story to lag and drag and noticed that my reading pace varied markedly throughout the book. After a certain amount of time stuck spent reiterating the same things, my mind would drift a bit and I’d have to wrestle it back onto the subject. Built in reading breaks became a necessity instead of breathlessly turning pages to discover “what’s next.” For some reason, the relationship between Andrei and Theodora lacked “oomph” for me. Maybe because it sticks so closely to the established stereotype in gothic novels thus not allowing for any surprises along the way.

The imagery of the countryside, the peasants, the castle – all were nicely done. And if you’re going to write a gothic novel, where better to set it than Transylvania? And what better nationality to use to counter all that gothic-y-ness than a Scotswoman of English descent. No offense to either country but both have an image of solid implacability and sound sense. There is Theodora with her stout walking shoes and plaid wraps, ready to face anything that overblown Transylvania might try and throw at her.

I’m not sorry to have read the book and I felt almost certain that with your name on it, the book would prove to be well written. But it didn’t turn me into a fan of the genre though it served as a nice change from my usual fare. B-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

6 Comments

  1. Marg
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 04:45:50

    I am a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Silent series, so I guess I was hoping for another book in that series. I will give this one a go, and hope to have it in my hands by the end of the week…fingers crossed!

  2. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 05:34:10

    More Julia Grey is on the way. I too prefer Ms. Raybourn’s Silent stuff (which I couldn’t love more), but this was a well-done departure. I respect her choice to take a chance and do something a bit different, but I agree with your review completely.

  3. Jayne
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 07:06:51

    @Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe: I like to see ‘new and different’ from authors too.

  4. Joanne
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 08:25:13

    I liked this story and I don’t normally read novels written in 1st person.

    But, and it’s a big reservation, TDTF was missing that edge of your seat, turn the page intense danger that made the Gothic romance as popular as it was for so long.

    The Gothic romances of old made the reader scared for the heroine and there was a ‘horror’ edge to them that just didn’t hold up in this book.

    But even though I thought that Theo’s actions regarding her intimacy with the Count were a little too modern I’ve recommended the book for the wonderful descriptions, the non-purple prose, for setting it in Transylvania (!!!) and in the hopes that more Gothics will be coming soon.

  5. Ava
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 08:37:04

    I read this one a little bit ago. I enjoyed it, you’re right it does drag, but I felt that had more to do with the fact that it needed at least another 100 pages. That sounds weird to say, but really a lot of the places that dragged were places where she was telling rather than showing. (MINOR SPOILER) If she’d been given the opportunity to say show how Theodora’s friend had childhood issues (as opposed to say, Andrei telling Theodora) then I think it would have worked better at the reveal instead of just “ah ha ha, of course, I knew it!”

  6. votermom
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 12:22:23

    Count Andrei Dragulescu

    LOLOLOLOL at that name.

    I will eventually read this, though I was hoping for Julia Gray a sequel as well.

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