Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone is the ideal atmospheric and gothic read for your fall TBR lineup! In fact, save it for a blustery, cool evening make yourself a pot of tea and cozy up on your couch and settle in to devour this book by the light of the moon (well, and maybe a lamp – eye safety, y’all). Lakesedge is the perfect book for any monster lovers, anyone who’s pictured themselves wandering the halls of a decrepit mansion in a gauzy nightdress, or running from their own tragic backstory through the trees of an eerie forest.

We meet our heroine, Violeta Graceling, known as “Leta” as she’s comforting her younger brother, Arien, during a night terror. Only his night terrors are not just simple inconveniences, but an expression of dark magic and shadows leak from his body during them. Leta is able to help him combat these episodes, but she is unable to hide them from the woman who took them in after their parents passed away. The woman is cruel and religious and punishes both Arien and Leta greatly each time his power manifests leading them both to consider running away.

Before their plans can come to fruition they must attend their village’s tithe day in which the villagers present gifts to the lord of the land. While at the event, Arien has another episode and catches the eye of the Monster of Lakesedge, Rowan Sylvanan. Rumors swirl throughout the village about Rowan, naming him not only a monster but responsible for the death of his family.

However, there’s more to Rowan than meets the eye and he recognizes the dark power Arien is exuding. He offers (or rather demands) Arien to join him at Lakesedge Manor to learn how to harness his power and in turn help Rowan tame the corruption oozing from the lake at his manor. Leta will not be left behind and joins them on their journey as a protector to Arien; but she is more tied to the corruption and Rowan than either realizes. Will she be enough to stop the destruction of Lakesedge, Rowan, and the world?

While most books fall under being plot-driven or character-driven, Lakesedge seems to run more middle of the road and even be more aesthetically-driven. As one very meta individual might say “issa vibe”. However, that does not mean it does not hold a reader’s attention. Clipstone does an amazing job of slowly revealing details about the characters and the corruption which keeps it incredibly intriguing. The story moves quickly with short chapters and language that is musical but still flows quickly and beautifully.

All of the characters bring their own unique strengths to the book. Leta is a wonderfully loyal protector of those she loves. Arien is soft yet determined to play his part in stopping the corruption. Rowan is a sad and aloof boy in need of saving from the all-consuming darkness. We also get a few side characters who also round out the cast. They include Florence, a maternal figure to the other characters at Lakesedge; Clover, a smart and capable alchemist tasked with helping Arien; and last but certainly not least – Lord Under. Lord Under plays an integral part in the corruption but it is not always straightforward with his intentions. He and Leta also provide some nice romantic tension to the story reminiscent of Sarah and Jareth a la Labyrinth.

This is a fantastic debut novel and our only regret is reading it as an advanced copy so we have to wait extra long for its sequel! We can’t wait to dive back into this dark gothic romance.