Title: Possessed (US) / Possessing Rayne (UK)
Author: Kate Cann
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Young Adult
Publication Date: January 2011 (US) / July 2008 (UK)
Hardcover: 302 Pages
Rayne can’t wait to start her summer job at a remote country mansion, far from the crowded, noisy London she so desperately wants to escape. But the retreat soon turns into a nightmare–the mansion is creepy, the legends of ghosts keep Rayne up at night, and she doesn’t feel safe anywhere.
Can Rayne figure out why she’s so freaked–before she becomes a ghost story herself?
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Morton’s Keep duology
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: I’ve had my eye on Possessed for a long while now – just look at the cool cover! This week, I was in the mood for a good ghost story and it seemed like the perfect time to dust this book off the TBR and give it a read.
Rayne feels trapped. Trapped by her mother, who only seems to want to control Rayne and uses her as a permanent babysitter for her toddler brother, Jelly. Trapped by her controlling boyfriend, who only seems to care about the status Rayne can bring him as a pretty girl and an accessory on his arm. Trapped by the noise and bustle and incessant action that surrounds her family’s London flat. So, when Rayne passes her A-levels and finishes school, she decides to take a year off and applies for a room-and-board job at a secluded estate out in the country. At Morton’s Keep, however, Rayne finds more than just the peace and quiet that she’s expecting – the keep has a lurid past of pain, torture, and darkness, and Rayne finds herself caught in the middle of it. Unsure of who to trust, or even if what she feels and sees is real, Rayne must discover the truth of Morton’s Keep and its frightening past if she hopes to survive.
The first book in a planned duology, Possessed is an effective psychological horror story that excels in terms of characterization and atmosphere. The first part of the book delves into Rayne’s claustrophobic psyche and her desire to get away from everyone and everything, effectively showing readers just how stifled and trapped she feels in her home and with her relationships. You can sense just how close to the edge this character is, how strained and flighty her nerves are, especially as the book is narrated in a smart, effective third person limited point of view. When Rayne decides to leave London for the great isolated unknown, she does so through manipulation and deception in order to preserve her relationship with her mother and boyfriend Damian. Playing them both against each other, Rayne insists that she needs space from her mother and younger brother to Damian, while telling her mother that she needs time apart from Damian’s pressure and controlling behavior. I loved that Rayne is not a saccharine sweet character or some naive young rosebud – she lies and manipulates out of fear because she doesn’t want to burn any bridges. At the same time, she’s a sympathetic character because we see firsthand how smothered she is at home, so when she finally experiences peace and freedom on her own at Morton’s Keep and the surrounding woods, it’s an exhilarating thing. More than anything, I love the metaphor for “possessing” Rayne – not so much possession in The Exorcist type of way, but more along the lines of asserting independence, especially from those who seek to control – or possess – Rayne as an object. The psychological and terror aspects of Possessed remind me a bit of a younger The Haunting of Hill House, with Rayne and Eleanor as these dual, tragic heroines.
Of course, there’s also the ghost story, itself. I also loved the creeping, oppressive dread of the atmosphere at the isolated country estate. While Rayne finds the peace and freedom she so desperately desires, she also knows terror as there is clearly something very wrong with the mansion and the locals. For the majority of the novel, this tension and slow simmering fear is expertly built, leading to a number of dramatic questions and unknowns. There are visions and ghosts, riddles and betrayals, dark family secrets and pagan rituals – all are revealed tantalizingly as each chapter unfolds, leading to a dramatic conclusion.
Unfortunately, while the characters, buildup and atmosphere are all fantastically rendered, the book stumbles in its final act, hastily trying to resolve the overall mystery with a fairly contrived Big Bad Villain Monologue. I wish that Ms. Cann had taken the same amount of time to unveil the solutions to the mysteries throughout the book since they were so brilliantly planted and nurtured in the early chapters, but alas. While the ending was rushed and lacked the finesse of the rest of the novel, I still found this book highly enjoyable and spine-tingly in all the right ways. I’ll definitely be back to read Consumed, the second book in this duology, very, very soon.
Additional Thoughts: Book 2, with an equally gorgeous cover, has also been released in the US this year. Here’s the cover and synopsis:
The thrilling sequel to POSSESSED finds 16-year-old Rayne still entwined in the creepy history of Morton’s Keep — and about to discover that she’s the only one who can stop the evil lurking there.
Rayne’s countryside escape has proven to be anything but — the remote mansion house where she lives and works holds terrible secrets, and she feels trapped there. And when a new manager shows up, things take an even more sinister turn.
Rayne doesn’t know who to trust — even the ghosts of Morton’s Keep seem to be warning her. It’s up to Rayne to overcome the ancient evil lurking here — but how?
On another note, while I do love the US covers, it is a shame that they don’t showcase the fact that Rayne is a biracial teen (half black, half caucasian), whereas the UK covers use a model that could very well be biracial.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
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