Friday, 13 February 2015

Book Review: Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley


About the author:
Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantasist who wears stilettos and poisonous flowers in her hair. Her short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows, came out in 2012, and her novella Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love won the 2013 Stabby Award for 'Best Short Fiction.' Her debut novel, Nameless: The Darkness Comes, the first book of "The Bone Angel Trilogy," also released January, 2014. This is her latest novel.

My rating:
Excellent. (10/10)

My review:

Pretty Little Dead Girls is the latest novel by author Mercedes M. Yardley, and it is one of the finest stories I've read in 2014. The language is rich and lyrical, without being heavy, and the prose floats like a butterfly. The imagery is engrossing, the plot twists and turns, offering constant thrills and surprises, and the characters are endearing, if a tad eccentric. The story draws you in and holds you until the very last page so make sure to clear your schedule before cozying up with this book… You will not want to put it down.

Pretty Little Dead Girls tells the story of Bryony Adams – an innocent girl who is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny.

Mercedes M. Yardley’s Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is a dark, lovely fairy tale which will stay with you long after you finish it. It is one of those precious few books that both teens and parents alike will love reading time and time again. There’s just so much to the novel. Ms. Yardley has created a tour de force in Pretty Little Dead Girls by combining a coming-of-age story with a gripping murder-mystery plot and surreal, phantasmagorical imagery reminiscent of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Aickman, and Neil Gaiman. In fact, if I had to describe the novel for you, I’d ask you to picture director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s magical movie Amélie, but if it was written in a collaboration between Poe and Gaiman, and then edited by Tori Amos. Yes, that’s how good Mercedes M. Yardley is.

From the very first sentence – “Bryony Adams was the type of girl who got murdered.”Pretty Little Dead Girls lets you know that you’re in for something extraordinary. If I have to be honest, I was a little worried that the story might get too dark, or discomforting, or gruesome, but Ms. Yardley writes with an excellent sense of humour and manages to playfully ‘tickle’ the reader even when bodies are found in dumpsters, or vital body parts go missing, or joggers are turned into victims.

Another high point of the novel for me were the characters. Bryony, for one, is an endearing and engaging heroine, whose optimism, courage, and gentleness transcend the bonds of time and make her into something ephemeral. Thus when she is referred to as the Star Girl you can’t help but smile and nod in agreement. Apart from Bryony, my favourite character was Eddie – the tortured musician. I found him to be much more grounded than the Star Girl, somewhat less metaphorical and otherworldly. Also, I happen to think that street musicians are cool. Especially ones who call their guitars Jasmine. And know the names of flowers. I mean, come on – if that’s not cool, then I don’t know what is!

One other thing about Pretty Little Dead Girls that I enjoyed was the spiritualization of the world around Bryony. The desert, the lilacs, the shards of shattered glass… Everything Mercedes M. Yardley describes is colourful, vivid and lively, making the Star Girl’s world as much of a character as the people living in it. To illustrate this, I’ll offer you the briefest of glimpses into one of my favourite scenes early on:

“Run!” shrieked the lilacs again, and one threw itself from the bouquet and onto the floor.

There’s a reason why I picked this sentence. For starters, it’s brilliant. The lilac ‘throwing itself’, rather than falling, might be one of my favourite images from a novel, period. A tiny bit of me wishes I could have written it… More importantly, for me, this sentence alone is enough to prove how good Mercedes M. Yardley is with her craft. And believe you me, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

One last thing – the cover artwork for Pretty Little Dead Girls is by HUGO award winner Galen Dara and it is fantastic. I can’t imagine a better ‘finishing touch’ to a book that is already spectacular in and on itself.

In conclusion, I’d say that Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley is simply one of the best novels I’ve read in a long, long time. There’s no better way to describe it. If you like the works of Neil Gaiman, or Boris Vian, or are just looking for an exciting, magical adventure, then look no further. This book will enthral you. It’s a dark, modern-day fairy tale and an excellent companion to Mercedes M. Yardley’s other stories of mystery, imagination, and the macabre. 

Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley is published by Ragnarok Publications, and it is a welcome addition to their growing catalogue of first-class fantasy and horror novels. 

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