Isis Sousa keeps saying that she’s not a writer and that “writing sucks.” Maybe. Maybe not. One thing I find certain —whether she uses words or images, she is a great storyteller. And in “The Night of Elisa” she tells a unique, absorbing story.
From the magnificent cover through the pencil sketches in the book to the beautiful flourishes on each page, Ms. Sousa’s ability to bring her characters to “life” in drawings as well as in words enhances the experience and fully draws the reader into the rich world of her story.
“The silence of the night was broken by a beautiful female voice singing a lullaby. It came from a distance and approached Leonhard slowly, surrounding him. He listened to the melody’s phantasmagoric cadence and the sounds penetrated his skin, his bones, until he could feel the music within him. He opened his eyes abruptly as he felt a heat spreading inside him; it was as though he had been covered by the most splendid earthly sunlight.”
So many of the elements of the Gothic novel are present here: Leonhard, the fallen hero, Elisa, the woman in distress, threatened by and fleeing from the evil Quentin, the general sense of unease and foreboding, the powerful love...
The writing has a hypnotic, dreamlike quality, achieved largely —I would say— by the use of the third person omniscient point of view, by the limited use of contractions, and by the almost screenplay feel of many of its paragraphs. The tone and the rhythm are perfect for this strange world where the dead and the living seem to coexist and to interact. And, Duskland, with its permanent gloom, is more than fascinating… Once having had a taste of it, I wonder, will one be able to stay away?...
“They want us to open a door but it takes a blood ritual to do such a thing, Elisa. Would you dare to try it?”
Dark, beautiful, haunting, “The Night of Elisa” is still with me days after reading the last page and will be for a long time…
Every read is a personal reaction. Mine to The Night of Elisa was unexpected. Suddenly I was transported to 1980 and my ten-year-old self. This was a time when I watched all sorts of movies on TV. Aside from Westerns, martial arts flicks and Godzilla, I also watched a fair amount of horror. Old stuff from the Thirties never scared me; but British horror movies from the Fifties and Sixties were just twisted enough to make me pause when it got dark.
In particular, Hammer Films sunk their way into my memory. These imports were outrageous in their day. The British studio remade the Hollywood classics, keeping the conventional details but notching up on the violence. They look silly today, but before slasher flicks were common, stuff like this did scare little boys such as I.
Reading Elisa, I quickly felt like I was reading a Hammer Horror in print form. The story concerns Elisa, a super cute Brazilian girl (judging from her portrait on the cover) who's manipulated into a bad marriage with an abusive Englishman, who proceeds to kill both her and Elisa's father in order to inherit the latter's fortune. The attempt fails, however, and Elisa - not alive yet not quite dead - ends up in a place called Duskland, where she meets some interesting characters, including a pair of naughty Siamese twins and a reformed vampire.
Elisa stays in Duskland just long enough to fall in love with the vampire before she's forced back into the land of the living, where she and her aunt must first escape Elisa's bastard of a husband, then get rid of him themselves with the help of a peasant boy and his uncle.
These characters talk and, for the most part, behave primly, as you might expect from a Victorian-era story. But there's always the sense of lust (and bloodlust) beneath the surface. These passions are so subdued, in fact, that what Elisa does to herself later in the story in order to communicate with her vampire love still in Duskland shocked me in its severity. But I shan't reveal more....
I liked the atmosphere of Elisa, though I can definitely say I hope I never end up in Duskland! The story is a bit slow at first, but picks up once Elisa's on the run in England. It's that freakish end that really marks the book, however, just like when I watched The Horror of Frankenstein, whose creature, after a long build-up, suddenly goes on a bloody rampage.
The only complaint I have (a personal one, naturally) is (view spoiler)
Four stars for suspenseful entertainment and an old-fashioned horror atmosphere!
I have so much love for this book and author. It has been such a long time since I indulged in a book with illustrations. Usually I like to let my imagination build the scenes as I read, but Isis is so talented at sketching and drawing that whenever I read the illustrated edition, I stopped to soak in the scenery. I'm a visual person. There's a reason why I'm a cover snob. I like pretty things. I like artistic things. And that's what is delivered with The Night of Elisa. The story and illustrations are so vivid that this story seeps into your mind and pulls you into its darkness.
The characters in this story are so wonderful. Each of them felt so developed and real. I was constantly riveted by the twists and turns of this story. Nothing was as it seemed in Duskland and the characters fit in seamlessly as part of the world.
The Night of Elisa is such a fun book. Not in a sense that it's a cutesey read. But it's so fun to immerse yourself in the world of Duskland. This is a novel heavy on the Gothic side, and it's all done perfectly right. I honestly feel like Isis Sousa has transcended the confines of genres with The Night of Elisa. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?!
**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review with no compensation.
It,s taken a while for me to find the time to write this review, so hopefully I can do justice to this very unique read.
The Night of Elisa is an unusual book, both in style and format. I love things that are 'a little different', and a story set in more than one plane of existence certainly fits that bill.
This is a story of love, revenge and mystery. Set between the ethereal realm of Duskland, and the grimy reality of Victorian England, the book oozes with Gothic charm.
After a slowish start, in which Elisa is introduced to the mysterious Leonhard, the pace quickens once we learn that many of Leonhards friends have reasons to feel aggrieved by the previous actions of Elisa,s abusive husband.
The story carries a dreamlike quality, and it reads like an adult fairytale. The illustrations add to this unusual feel. The best thing I can say about The Night of Elisa is that I really liked it. I liked it alot!