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Elisa Downing
House of Matchsticks

Young Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

"Readers will be swept away … [House of Matchsticks] is a literary rarity." –The Booklife Prize

Fall into a world bursting with strange machines, terrifying creatures, and forgotten history. Fall in love with the crew of treasure hunters risking their hearts to save it.

The House of Matchsticks is calling …

On the surface of the sea, a burning island beckons to a man known only as the Collector.

Approaching the fire, the Collector and his bird companion, Caladrius, bear witness to a vicious crime. When he realizes an innocent life will be lost—a baby, swathed in a bundle and left to die in a floating rowboat—the Collector makes a choice that will change his course forever.

So begins House of Matchsticks, a brand-new, unforgettable YA Fantasy series set in the world of Benemourne, where a mysterious ore called Adrudian supplies power to a society rife with danger.

Follow Isaline, a girl who dreams of becoming a City Watchman in Benemourne’s capital, and Jack, a retired treasure hunter with a dark and painful obsession, as they are dragged with the Collector into the beginnings of a deadly adventure.

House of Matchsticks is a third person, multi-POV series with found family, slow-burn romance (straight and LGBTQ+), and a healthy dose of action/adventure. This is Part 1 in the series. Expect a cliffhanger.

The House of Matchsticks series:

1.     House of Matchsticks

2.     Night of Matchsticks

3.     Tree of Matchsticks

... and more to come.

Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 5 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10


Plot: Downing’s plot is both fantastical and grounded in its own reality, with an understandable and convincing magic system. The storyline weaves characters and settings together effortlessly without awkward transitions or losing its pace.

Prose/Style: Downing uses otherworldly prose to drive home the plot, combining dramatic descriptions and stunning magic. Readers will be swept away by the writing’s allure.

Originality: Reaching above and beyond ordinary fantasy tropes, Downing is able to mix in attention-grabbing elements that transform this novel into a literary rarity.

Character Development/Execution: Downing’s characters struggle to come to life, despite engaging backstories. Isaline becomes monotonous and passive, while Johannes Faraday, though satisfyingly evil, falls short of a hallmark villain.

Date Submitted: August 30, 2021