Monday, February 2, 2015

Delphine Dodd: Review

Delphine Dodd is S.P. Miskowski's second book--and the first novella--in her Skillute Cycle. The book focuses on Delphine Dodd, a character who had a somewhat minor role in the first part of Miskowki's debut novel, Knock Knock. We are given a detailed look into Delphine's history, making the book serve as a prequel to Knock Knock. The book is broken up into two parts: Over the River and Through the Woods, and The Changeling.

Over the River and Through the Woods centers on Delphine's time as a child, before she moved to Skillute. It begins with Delphine, and her sister Olive, riding in a car with their mother and a man named John Dee. Both girls are drooped off at the house of Eve Alice, their grandmother. Their mother rides off with John Dee, and is never heard from again. Eve Alice, like Delphine in Knock Knock, is a sort of midwife, and thought of by many as a witch. She stocks up on oils, herbs, and other remedies that she gives to clients. They live in a place called Mount Coffin, also known as Mont des Morts, the Rock of the Dead. Aptly named because of the burial practices of the Chinook, Native Americans who settled the gargantuan rock long before the arrival of the Europeans. They covered Mount Coffin with canoes, housing the remains of loved ones, also gifts that were precious to them. This bit of history, along with winding streams, dense forests, myriad crows, and thick fog make Mount Coffin a liminal place, situated between the worlds of the living and the dead. Miskowski truly shines at creating a haunting and mystical atmosphere. Reading the first part is akin to experiencing a dream, you have a difficult time discerning what is real and what is not, giving the reader not so much a sense of terror, but unease. Add to the fact that Mount Coffin had not quite yet been touched by the cold hand of industrialization, and you have a place that is only read about in fairy tales, so it's only fitting that the first part has the title that it does. The dream-like quality of Mount Coffin, coupled with Miskowski's penchant for vivid details, sometimes made me forget that I was sitting on my sofa.

The second part of the book, The Changeling, takes us away from the haunted world of Mount Coffin, and brings us to Skillute, where Delphine has moved to, after receiving a letter from her mother. She essentially inherits her mother's house and all her belongings. Delphine sets up shop and continues the practices and traditions that were passed on to her by Eve Alice. While the first part was all about atmosphere and Delphine's childhood, the second part is much more impactful; it's chock-full of revelations, showing us just how important Delphine's role in the Skillute Cycle actually is. It was the second part that truly left me staggering. Miskowski, just like in Knock Knock, knows how to build something up, and once it culminates into the big reveal, you are left shocked and breathless.

Delphine Dodd can be read on its own; however, if you read Knock Knock first, the payoff is much bigger, and more rewarding. The books seamlessly tie into one another, creating a cohesive, organic world, and there are still two more books in the Skillute Cycle! Without having read the last two books, I can already say that Miskowski deserves a tribute in the form of an anthology. I would love to see a collection of stories that revolve around Skillute and its residents. Miskowski has created something special, a haunting, living, breathing world full of mystery, folklore, legends, horror--both real and otherwordly--atmosphere, and moments that will make your jaw drop; moments that will leave you terrified; but most of all, moments that leave you wanting more.

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