Before I do or say anything else, please just look at that cover. Isn't it absolutely stunning?
**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**
A spine-tingling Gothic Thriller
An abandoned mansion, deep in the woods. A dollhouse, filled with life-sized toys. A doorway into other realms. And girls who keep disappearing...
When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, vanishes during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha's boyfriend and their friend Lacey, determined to find her. Instead, the three teens fall into a carefully-laid trap—deep into the surreal nightmare and dark secrets of the Dollhouse.
Now, Cassie must uncover the mysteries of the Dollhouse and her own connection to it-- before it's too late.
With the horror and otherworldliness of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and the gothic romance of A Great and Terrible Beauty, Dollhouse is a tantalizing start to The Dark Carousel series.(source:goodreads)
Narrative-This book is told from the first-person POV of Cassie, a girl who is afraid of the dark yet determined enough to make it out of the Dollhouse alive-and with her friends. (I had to mention the "afraid of the dark" thing; it was such an awesome detail about Cassie that I couldn't leave it out).
The narrative was, at best, choppy. The dialogue occasionally felt unreal, and throughout the novel I'm not sure I quite felt the right amount of urgency that this kind of novel should have inspired in me. The problem is also that I don't know why. Which means I unfortunately don't have a lot more to say on this matter. Once I got a few chapters in, I was able to get used to the narrative and the way the story was told (I think it has something to do with the way background information was plopped down? Maybe some info-dumps? Obviously: I'm still not quite sure, because even those answers don't quite sound right).
Nevertheless: I did get used to the narrative style, but what bothered me the most was the dialogue (mostly Cassie and Ethan's dialogue for some reasons; Jessamine's was perfect), and the lack of the sense of urgency. Maybe it's just me, and I'm just weird?
Plot-What I absolutely adored about this book was that parts of it that played to the bias in me: I've always been rather fascinated and attracted to the very things that make DOLLHOUSE what it is: a creepy, gothic thriller. The multiple carousels, creepy dolls, the very idea of a giant dollhouse where girls are kidnapped and made to be human dolls? Color me both impressed and intrigued: the setting and ambiance of the book was dark, dreary, and fed to the things I love.
Honestly, I love the plot. It surprised me with its paranormal/magical/ghostly twist, and the multiple mentions of Mnemosyne was another thing that grasped at my interests (you can totally ask me about my obsession with Mnemosyne, but I'm not quite sure it'll make sense).
What I would have loved more of, however, was background. There were some questions answered by the end of the novel (mostly about Jessamine, who's the one who's really keeping all of the girls hostage), but there weren't enough: I'm talking about Henry and Audette, and the entire, ghostly circus that exists parallel to the Dollhouse. There's a much bigger picture that has to do with Cassie, who's connected to a past "doll" named Prudence, but there wasn't enough to make it a satisfying ending. I'm still confused with what the spirits are, what they're trying to do, and what Cassie has to do with it.
Even so, my love for the grotesque darkening of innocent things (carousels!) and creepy thrillers and ghosts is inspiring me to be generous and give this a full five stars-despite the things I thought were lacking.
Characters-I think out of all of the characters in this book (and there were many), Jessamine was the most well-rounded, three-dimensional character in the entire novel, which is saying a lot since she's a ghost. She's one of the "villains," but not the worst, and she's definitely one that inspires sympathy from the reader once you learn her background. The details about her were dropped excellently, and her story unfolded wonderfully, at just the right times.
I'm not entirely sure I can say that about the others. Even Cassie, the main character, fell a bit flat. When there were details revealed about many of the others, they felt too random and out of place; instead of a careful lead-up, they felt like they were simply dropped in a place that looked cozy.
Then there's the fact that I'm not entirely sure I trust the main characters' idea of priorities. Aisha, in particular, confused me: she and her best friends (and technically ex(?) boyfriend) are trapped underground with a psycho, and she further helps the psycho torment Cassie because she's angry that something might have happened between Cassie and Ethan (the ex(?) boyfriend). Following that, the romance felt off and badly-timed; it didn't quite fit in the areas it was placed.
Overall, once you get into the story, the characters of the other trapped girls start to come out. While they seemed a bit simple, too, it wasn't un-enjoyable reading about them. (Jessamine's still my favorite, though).
My final word on this book: I'm reading on to the second book in the series (PAPER DOLLS) because I'm curious. And I like Allyn's way of setting up a truly creeply and grostesque fantasy world. If you like gothic thrillers, definitely take a peek at this.
Final Answer: 3.66 / 5
Like gothic thrillers with truly dark and creepy atmospheres? Check out DOLLHOUSE @Anya_Allyn via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)
Carousels, human dolls, and a circus of ghosts. @Rae_Slater reviews DOLLHOUSE @Anya_Allyn (Click to Tweet)