ARC REVIEW: SMALL ANGELS BY LAUREN OWEN

the book cover for Small Angels by Lauren Owen
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 2nd 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Random House
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, murder
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Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

A wedding in a small English village attracts a malicious spirit, forcing deep secrets to surface–a hypnotic tale of sisterhood, first love, and hauntings.

As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbor from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonne sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church on the edge of dense green woods. The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself. But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.

Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village where her fiancé, Sam, and his sister, Kate, grew up. But days before the ceremony, Chloe starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels–and worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.

Now Kate is returning home for the first time in years, for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself. An unforgettable novel about the memories that hold us back and those that show us the way forward–this is storytelling at its most magical. Enter Small Angels, if you dare.

Small Angels is a slow, creeping horror story of a novel. You aren’t quite sure where the author is trying to take you, until all the sudden — you’re there, right at the heart of it. It’s a spooky tale at the heart of this book, but it’s not particularly scary. I thoroughly enjoyed Lauren Owen’s debut, The Quick, back when I read it years ago. With Small Angels, though, I found myself wanting more. Just a tiny bit more of something.

At the heart of this story is Mockbeggar — a slightly sentient forest. It wants to feel loved, it wants stories and to be a part of something. Two hundred years before the book starts, Mockbeggar falls in love with a young boy named Harry Child. Harry has, to put it simply, an awful life. He comes to a horribly tragic end, and Mockbeggar basically keeps him as part of itself. Harry haunts the woods. (I love the idea of a haunted forest, but there wasn’t enough here to really do it for me. I wanted something extra, another entity, something else in the forest.) Harry becomes our story’s villain.

And to start, you feel bad for him, but as the book goes on and on…you start to resent him. You resent him badly. Because as a part of his haunting, he has held the Gonne family captive for hundreds of years. They live their entire lives around his happiness, making Harry-the-ghost pleased or content with their misery. It’s the Gonne family that are the other main characters of this story. Lucia, in particular, is one of the stars of the story.

It’s Lucia that I did not understand. She’s told time and time again not to mess with Mockbeggar, not to go looking for trouble, or playing with Harry. So what does she do, time and time again? It was so frustrating as a reader to sit and have to read about her completely ignoring people who told her what not to do. It is Lucia that brings about everything that happens in this book.

Small Angels is very well written, but the end of the book really left me wanting more. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way the end is written feels very much like a cop-out. It all ends way, way too neatly for me. Despite that, Small Angels is atmospheric, spooky, and haunting. A perfect read for someone who doesn’t like being frightened, but wants something at least somewhat Halloween-y when the season comes about.

Thank you to Becky for buddy-reading this with me!!

SMALL ANGELS was published on AUGUST 2, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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12 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: SMALL ANGELS BY LAUREN OWEN”

  1. I found The Quick a little hard work, great idea, loved the social commentary (East End vampires!) but felt it was a bit drawn out without ever quite delivering the goods. But am definitely curious to read another Lauren Owen and this sounds like my perfect horror – spooky but not scary (I’m such a wuss 😂)

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