One of the great things about being a part of the #WritingCommunity on Twitter is discovering new authors. It’s one thing to wander through a bookstore and browse titles, but during a pandemic, wandering through Twitter posts and perusing titles is the next best thing.
My latest discovery is the novel Where Demons Dance by Emma Briedis. I picked up a copy on Amazon after interacting with Ms. Briedis online and finding her to be warm and insightful when it comes to the topic of writing. As usual, I didn’t read anything about the book before I dove in…no synopsis, no reviews. I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but I find going into a story blind makes the journey far more enjoyable than if I’d read reviews and formed preconceptions.
Interestingly enough, Where Demons Dance is outside my usual reading area, meaning, it’s historical fiction. I don’t think I’ve read anything in this genre prior to this book, so it was a fascinating experience.
The story takes place in the late 1800s and focuses on the Mormon community of Utah. It begins with a murder and then follows several separate storylines and characters who are all caught up in the repercussions of this violent act. The main characters are Penelope and Ava, two women who follow the rules be aren’t exactly happy with their situations. I wouldn’t say they are feminists, especially considering the time period and the culture they’re living in, but they are independent in thought and, in my mind, cut from the same cloth.
When Penelope discovers her husband has been murdered, she sets out to find the reason behind it and the people who did it. Her storyline runs somewhat parallel to Ava’s. The latter is a young woman being raised in a Mormon household with her brother, but she questions the validity of her situation.
I don’t want to allude to too much here. It would be too easy to drop spoilers. However, I can tell you that the storylines of all the characters dovetail nicely into a satisfying conclusion. The characters are all well-conceived. They feel like they’re real people dealing with mysteries and unanswered questions. I also felt that Ms. Briedis did a fantastic job of weaving the different paths together and the way she handled the perceived mental illness of one of the characters.
In fact, this is one of those wonderful stories that swept me away. What I mean is, reading this story didn’t feel like reading, it felt like I was an extra watching from the sidelines. Ms. Briedis has such a delicate touch with the narrative, never pulling me out of the story with a fumbled sentence or awkward plot point.
Overall, this is a fantastic novel that uses an actual historic event as a catalyst. In fact, please be sure to read the Afterword. Ms. Briedis provides some additional insight into where the story came from, as well as all the hard work she did to research for historical accuracy.
I highly recommend Where Demons Dance. Be sure to add it to your reading list.