Sarah Parsons has never seen Amber House, the grand Maryland estate that’s been in her family for three centuries. She’s never walked its hedge maze nor found its secret chambers; she’s never glimpsed the shades that haunt it, nor hunted for lost diamonds in its walls.
But all of that is about to change. After her grandmother passes away, Sarah and her friend Jackson decide to search for the diamonds–and the house comes alive. She discovers that she can see visions of the house’s past, like the eighteenth-century sea captain who hid the jewels, or the glamorous great-grandmother driven mad by grief. She grows closer to both Jackson and a young man named Richard Hathaway, whose family histories are each deeply entwined with her own. But when the visions start to threaten the person she holds most dear, Sarah must do everything she can to get to the bottom of the house’s secrets, and stop the course of history before it is cemented forever.
Shrouded in mystery and full of eerie adventures, Amber House captivated me from start to finish. I loved following Sarah and Richard through the house, exploring the many passageways in search of treasure. Learning about the deep, sorrowful past of the house through Sarah’s visions and her ancestor’s journal was just as riveting as the search for treasure and, truth be told, I adored everything about this novel.
Sarah’s autistic brother, Sam, is my absolute favorite. His sheer energy and penchant for exploration, as well as his love for his sister, quickly endeared him to my heart. Though he’s just a small child, he added a lot of depth and character to the novel, and I am so glad the authors decided to create him the way they did. It’s hard to explain, but I think you’ll understand when you read the novel; he’s absolutely amazing.
Richard was a dreamy addition to the novel, and I love that, like Sarah, he has special connections to the house, and more importantly, to Sarah. While I picked up that he is tied to the house very early on in the novel, I couldn’t put my finger on his ability until he blatantly stated what it was, and at that point, I nearly died, especially with the revelation it brought. This story is spun very well, and I honestly cannot wait for the sequel (but readers, rest assured, there is no cliffhanger in this novel and it could very well stand alone, but thank God it’s not going to!).
Sarah’s mother, ever the rich snob, drove me absolutely batty, but without her antics and the crossing between rich and poor, I think the story would have fallen flat. The addition of high society characters and a love triangle or sorts made the story all that more interesting and, of course, the fact that the novel takes place in Maryland is another plus. Having visited many of the places described in the novel, I felt an even deeper connection with the characters and plot—I just love when that happens!
I did not like the “Good Mother” spider, though. Not one bit… but I am also under the impression that this spider is a figment of the authors’ imaginations. At least, I hope she is, because if not, I’m in a world of trouble. I did Google the spider to see if she existed after I was creeped out of my mind while reading, but to no avail. I tweeted one of the authors about the spider as well and am wating to hear back… and I’m just dying to know! Especially when Richard says that these spiders are native to the area (meaning MD) and aren’t on the West coast, where Sarah is from… I mean, what a way to give a girl a heart attack as she’s reading the novel in the dead of night… suddenly I felt like a billion little spiders were in my bed with me… (Update–I heard back from the authors and the Good Mother does NOT exist… thank God).
But moving on from all that creepy spider talk, I want to live in Amber House. I don’t necessarily want the abilities that Sarah has, though it is pretty cool, but I’d love to even just visit the place… it sounds so magnificent, with its sheer size, not to mention the maze it totes, or the stables and dock… I really want to live here. Too bad it doesn’t exist (right?). Five stars.
Scholastic Inc. and Arthur A. Levine Books have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on October 1, 2012.