Jeff is dying. Haunted by memories and grappling with the shame of his desires, he runs away to remote Scotland with a piece of experimental tech that allows him to enter the mind of someone in the past. Instructed to only use it three times, Jeff – self-indulgent, isolated and deteriorating – ignores this advice.
In the late 1860s, Leonora lives a contented life in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by nature, her hands and mind kept busy. Contemplating her future and the social conventions that bind her, a secret romantic friendship with the local laird is interrupted when her father sends her to stay with her aunt in Edinburgh – an intimidating, sooty city; the place where her mother perished.
But Leonora’s ability to embrace her new life is shadowed by a dark presence that begins to lurk behind her eyes, and strange visions that bear no resemblance to anything she has ever seen or known…
A Superior Spectre is a highly accomplished debut novel about our capacity for curiosity, and our dangerous entitlement to it, and reminds us the scariest ghosts aren’t those that go bump in the night, but those that are born and create a place for themselves in the human soul.
I picked up A Superior Spectre for a few reasons. One was because it was recommended to me that if I loved Outlander (which I really, REALLY do) then I would like this book. The second was the science fiction element of being able to time travel mentally using a device. I love a good time travel novel and I had high hopes for this book.
To say this novel was a giant let down is an understatement. While the writing is very clever and it was refreshing to read something that wasn’t in the typical once upon a time set up, the book, in my opinion, did not live up to its hype. The only thing it had in common with Outlander was that it was set in Scotland. That’s it. Yes, there was a time travel element but the writer only took us as far back as the 1860s and it was not in some magical Devine way. It was an invasion of privacy and it never sat well with me.
Character-wise I couldn’t stand Jeff, our male protagonist. He was long winded, unnecessarily despondent and selfish in regards to how he treated those around him. I just couldn’t connect with him and his dark thoughts. It was like reading about the human version of Eyore – if Eyore was in his forties and liked to constantly think about having sex with teenage boys — Yeah, that was another thing that didn’t sit well with me either.
The upside is that alongside Jeff’s melancholic accounts, the novel switches over to the other protagonist, Leonora who is living in the late 1800s era in Scotland. Her sections of the book were a joy to read and so captivating. I personally would have preferred the novel to center on Leonora and her perspective. For that reason, I gave the book a 3 out of 5, because I could have left the rest and just focused on her interesting journey of navigating society and mental health in 1860s Edinburgh.
I received a copy of this ARC thanks to NetGalley and Ventura Press in trade for a fair and honest review.