Monday 20 September 2021

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Review: Precious Catastrophe by Deirdre Sullivan

Precious Catastrophe by Deirdre Sullivan

I received this eProof for free from Hot Key Books via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

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Precious Catastrophe by Deirdre Sullivan

Published: 30th September 2021 | Publisher: Hot Key Books | Source: NetGalley
Deirdre Sullivan on Twitter | Deirdre Sullivan on Instagram

Look. Madeline. You've lost your soul. You've lost your freedom. You've lost a bit of your sister. What else could go wrong?

Catlin and Madeline are extraordinary sisters, living extraordinary lives - in a place that seems entirely ordinary, but which in fact seethes with secrets, both sacred and sinister. Ballyfrann is a village where, for centuries, people who are not quite human have gathered. Catlin has already fallen foul of one such creature - a dark, vicious predator who almost killed her - and only Madeline giving up a part of her own soul was able to bring Catlin back from the brink of death.

Now, the girls are making their strange new lives: Catlin, haunted by what happened to her, is isolated and bereft; Madeline is learning ancient magics under the tutelage of local wise woman Mamó. Learning that magic isn't mindfulness and hats. It's work - hard work. And Madeline knows she has to keep watch. On her sister. On the things that happen. Notice things before they start to happen. And before long, they do...
From The StoryGraph.

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My other reviews of Perfectly Precentable Deaths Series:
Perfectly Precentable Deaths

WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.

When I heard that Precious Catastrophe by Deirdre Sullivan, sequel to Perfectly Preventable Deaths, was being published this year, it immediately became my most anticipated book of 2021. There was no waiting around with this book; as soon as I had it in my hands, I immediately started reading, and I'm thrilled to say it was more epic than I was expecting!

After Lon attacked and killed Catlin in Perfectly Preventable Deaths, and Maddy made a bargain with Mamó to save her life, both are dealing with the consequences. Maddy now lives with Mamó, constantly working and constantly learning, rarely seeing her family or having any time for herself, and Mamó is just as grumpy and taciturn as ever. But it's all worth it, because Catlin is alive. Catlin is struggling with what she's experienced, and with Maddy hardly ever around, turns to her faith and spirituality for solace. But when they discover their father's ashes have been exhumed from his grave, and that bones of one of the previous girls killed by Lon have been scattered again, they realise they're not as safe as they thought. Something has awoken. Evil is still haunting Ballyfrann.

Precious Catastrophe is told from both Maddy and Catlin's perspectives, as opposed to just Maddy's in Perfectly Preventable Deaths, but the focus is mainly on Catlin. She's still dealing with the trauma and betrayal of what Lon did to her. What I absolutely loved about Catlin's struggle is how real it is; this story may be fantasy, and she may have been torn apart by a monster, but her trauma response is authentic, and very relatable. When she was was killed, she was having sex with Lon that she consented to, but it quickly changed from consensual sex to Lon tearing into her flesh with his teeth, It might not be what we normally think of, but it's sexual assault, and Catlin's trauma response is that of a sexual assault survivor. She was once very confident, and loved the attention of boys, but now things are hard. She's still Catlin; she's still wise-cracking, and kind of self-centered, and that confidence still seems to be there. But she's having nightmares, has anxiety, and when Eddie Collins takes an interest in her, things are different from Catlin when things get physical. When it looks like things might go even a little further than just kissing, Catlin freezes in fear. Eddie even simply brushing his hand over her ribs in a similar to Lon is enough to take her right back. Eddie is a nice guy, though, who knows what has she's been through and is completely up for going at her pace, which makes things easier for Catlin. But the trauma is real, and it isn't something she can exactly go to a therapist with - that her ex-boyfriend is a monster who tried to kill her with his teeth.

So she turns to her spirituality. The Virgin Mary has always resonated to Catlin, and she's always kept a shrine of statues and prayer cards, and she turns to Mary now, both at her own shrine and at the local church, where she spends the majority of her time now. Catlin's spirituality like the other half of the coin to Maddy's witchcraft. It was fascinating to see Catlin's spirituality from her own perspective, because in Perfectly Preventable Deaths, we got it from Maddy's; how unfair she thought it that their mum was ok with Catlin's faith and spirituality, but Maddy's intuitive and instinctive knowledge of what plants and other household items were needed to protect her family was strange and unacceptable. It felt a lot less about religion, and more about ritual and turning inward, and a respect and a reverence that is separate to that within religion. It's a spirituality that is familiar to me.  Despite being an atheist, Catlin's spirituality really resonated with me, and the ritual of it all bringing her peace is something I completely understood. But things start to change when a statue in the church that Catlin is particularly drawn to, Our Lady of Ballyfrann, starts performing miracles for Catlin. Mary has heard her prayers, has made contact, and is now going to help Catlin never feel afraid again.

There is a constant and pervasive feeling of dread as you read Precious Catastrophe. The writing is atmospheric and creepy, and I was constantly on edge. You just know there's something sinister happening, even if you don't know what. It's the feeling of knowing someone is watching you, they're behind you, and they're creeping up to you, but you can't turn around, so you're just waiting and waiting for them to reach you. You're constantly on the precipice of terror; it's all encompassing and inescapable, and bloody brilliant! I had so many theories about what was going on, and while they were almost half right, I was never spot on. The direction the story took at a number of points surprised me, and my horror just grew and grew. The twists and revelations were mind blowing, and the climax, oh my god! Sitting on the edge of my seat, completely horrified, and incredibly tense, with no idea how Catlin and Maddy would get out of things this time! It was just incredible! It's all kind of freaky and disturbing and sinister, and I bloody loved it! Honestly, I love Precious Catastrophe more than Perfectly Preventable Deaths, and I thought that was pretty much perfect.

And I'm excited! Because while the story of Precious Catastrophe is all wrapped up and has a conclusion, there are little bits and pieces that make me think there's going to be a third book. There are still questions around the world Ballyfrann exists in we don't have the answers to yet, questions around the past, and a few tiny loose ends - or rather possibilities that could be explored. There are definite hints of more to come. And I'm thrilled because I am in no way ready to say goodbye to Maddy and Catlin, and this petrifying world! I bloody adored Precious Catastrophe, and I need you all to buy it to make sure we definitely get that third book. Seriously, I cannot recommend this terrifying series enough!

Thank you to Hot Key Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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