18-year-old Valentina Callejas has been raised to do what her Catholic grandmother and mother say to do. But Valentina feels a different pull--an affinity with nature, a desire to read tarot cards and study the occult. After ditching her church's retreat, Valentina flees her Miami home and ends up five hours away at Macy's house, a sister she's never met until now.
When a mysterious wolf leads Valentina to nearby abandoned Sunlake Springs Resort, she meets the "clairs," young psychics drawn to the hotel's haunted history. They've been waiting for her, they say, to open a magical entryway to the spirit world. But Valentina's sensitive hands tell a different story--of anguished spirits, menacing cracks, and hooded ghosts of Florida's hateful past. Even the local legend, the beautiful Lady of the Lake, all hint to the hotel's sinister history. To protect her new friends from the horrors awaiting them on the other side, Valentina must use her growing powers and decide, once and for all, if she's the witch she was always meant to be.
Triana’s tale hovers on the border between dark fantasy and outright horror, drawing upon the creepiness of Florida’s forgotten corners to infuse the setting with a sense of loss, decay, and impending doom. Vale’s struggle to reconcile her wavering faith with a newfound affinity for Tarot and spiritualism makes for a compelling personal arc, especially when it brings her into conflict with family and friends. Triana is careful to balance both sides of these disagreements, encouraging personal exploration while condemning hypocrisy and closed-mindedness. She strongly emphasizes found family, as Vale slowly learns to trust her new friends–a refreshingly diverse group which includes Haitian-American Wilky, non-binary Mori, and lesbian Fae.
Triana skillfully ramps up the tension as her characters explore the sordid history of Sunlake Springs and how it relates to their personal lives. Even Vale discovers a surprising connection, and in a chilling subplot, Wilky confronts a lingering legacy of racism when he uncovers his great-uncle’s fate. The subtle influence of the supernatural on the story becomes more blatant near the end, but the end result is a powerful tale of personal discovery and dark secrets that will appeal to readers looking for an unsettling escape into the unknown.
Takeaway: This dark fantasy blends Florida atmosphere and witchy suspense.
Great for fans of: Hannah Abigail Clarke’s The Scapegracers, Amy Rose Capetta’s The Lost Coast, Shea Ernshaw’s Winterwood.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A