Caitlin Starling’s gothic horror Yellow Jasmine is atmospheric and page turning. In this gothic tale a mysterious affliction troubles the city of Delphinium. With a few more developments this could have been one of my favourites of 2020, but there were a few things that held it back.
The Plot in a Nutshell
Yellow Jessamine’s premise is simple and effective. Evelyn Perdanu lives in the dying city of Delphinium: a city hit by plague and falling apart at the edges. Evelyn is the head of her family shipping business and so when her ship The Verity comes into port carrying a mysterious sickness, she desperately wants to cure or eradicate it.
However, there is something different about the illness – those who suffer from it become glassy-eyed and seem to be drawn to Evelyn. Evelyn has a number of dark secrets and this illness may expose them.
Evelyn has one person she cares about: Violetta, her assistant. Violetta dotes on Evelyn and together they try to work out the mystery of the sickness.
Throw in a injured solider (from outside the city) who they take prisoner and a judiciary who are hot on the case and you have a gothic, horror-mystery.
I began this novel loving it. The descriptions are simple but effective – I imagined the port city so vividly. I felt creeped out and drawn into Evelyn’s life. However, throughout the novel I felt less drawn in, it became more plot driven and some of the visualisation that I loved was lost.
In terms of characterisation, I liked the characters of Evelyn and Violetta. Evelyn is very complex, especially morally. She has some dark secrets, especially that of what happened to her family, and they haunt her. She wears a veil constantly, as she’s in mourning for her mother, but it also allows her to hide her real expressions and emotions. She is stoic and majestic, but as the story goes on her cracks start to show. I also liked Violetta who is devoted, but why? I liked unwrapping their relationship. I did think the smaller characters could have had a few more scenes, to world build a bit more.
The plot was good – I liked the elements of dystopia and horror mixed with fantasy. If anything I wanted more, if the book had been longer then the world would have been even more developed and it would have kept me hooked through every page.
Saying all this, I would recommend Yellow Jessamine as a quick read for a rainy holiday or for someone starting out in the horror genre.