by Claire Legrand
Released on February 22nd, 2022
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Young Adult Fiction—Fantasy, Horror
From New York Times bestselling author Claire Legrand comes a new, bone-chilling YA horror novel about a girl who joins a coven to root out a vicious evil that’s stalking her village. Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Grace Year.
Her name is unimportant.
All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain–an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.
She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.
Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?
This searing and lyrically written novel by the critically acclaimed author of Sawkill Girls beckons readers to follow its fierce heroine into a world filled with secrets and blood–where the truth is buried in lies and a devastating power waits, seething, for someone brave enough to use it.
Trigger/Content Warning(s): Physical abuse, Violence, Emotional abuse, Attempted Sexual assault, Domestic abuse, Death of parent(s), Death of Child(ren), Animal death, Racism, War
Disclaimer: I was provided a digital galley via Edelweiss+ in return for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion.
Extasia is an enrapturing shift in storytelling and genre, though still keeping the same components and factors that makes a Claire Legrand book.
This book is deep and dark. The themes are heavy, and the stairwell that is the plot grows longer and longer as readers climb down into the story. Legrand made a shuttering opening by introducing readers to Haven, a cult that the main character Amity lives in. Appointed as one of four Saints, Amity’s purpose is to serve the community as deemed fit—such as taking brutal beatings during a confession-like ritual.
It was fairly easy to fall into Legrand’s writing and storytelling. Both are extremely alluring and addicting, pulling readers in even while feeling highly disturbed by Extasia’s themes. The author weaves imagery into each chapter, describing things in eerie and realistic detail. One such example can be pulled from the “ghosts” that Amity begins to see, in which one, in particular, has flies swarming from its mouth and a bell ringing in its throat.
It was intriguing to follow such an anti-hero-like character, as well. Legrand took character development seriously and made the main character verging on unlikeable to further her growth as a young teen into someone who has been forced to make difficult decisions in horrific and unimaginable situations.
However, there were a few elements to the story that felt underdeveloped. In particular, there is a scene in which Amity and a select group of others head into the mountain they believe houses the Devil himself. It is here that a certain group is introduced, and it felt extremely out of place. With it being closer to the end of the story and a complete shift away from how the original story had been shaped, it was as though a curveball had been thrown as a plot point. Along with this, it was noticeable that a few of the side characters were lacking in several aspects. Vengeance’s character fell flat, despite her being an important side character in the book. The ending also did not succeed in terms of expectations–it was too drawn out, felt rushed in parts, and left quite a few questions.
It can be determined that, out of the nearly 500 pages this book had, the first 250 were the most enjoyable and well-put-together. Overall, this did not live up to my expectations, but I did enjoy the read and was unable to put it down. For that, I rate it 3.5 stars. I look forward to what Claire Legrand might put out next.
Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a New York Times bestselling author of darkly magical books.
Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and WINTERSPELL, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, her middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, is a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee. Claire’s latest middle grade novel, FOXHEART, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. The companion novel, THORNLIGHT, was a Kids’ Indie Next Pick in 2021. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.
Her young adult horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS received five starred reviews. It was also a 2018 Bram Stoker Award finalist and a 2019 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her latest novel, EXTASIA, is a young adult horror novel described as “The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Craft” and was a Kids’ Indie Next Pick.
Her adult debut, book 1 of THE MIDDLEMIST TRILOGY, releases in spring 2023.