*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
I was told by an early age, around the time I convinced myself that the silhouette of the witch with the pointy hat who resided in the corner of my room every once in a blue moon – supposedly cast from the merging of shadows from the surrounding of furniture – was definitely going to get me, that I shouldn’t go looking for things that aren’t there, to just ignore it. So I did. I ignored or more or less hid under the covers from the witch who magically reappeared by the closest even after Mama and Papa had rearranged all my bedroom furniture and had announced that there were no such things as witches, monster, or ghosts before having turned off the light and leaving me alone. I didn’t go looking for the thing lurking in the dark. In fact, it came looking for me.
And it all started in that damn house.
Sixteen-year-old Marimar Utterson has just found herself living in a small southern town’s notoriously haunted house when she meets Sage Sterling. A handsome hazel-green eyed boy who is not only captivated by Marimar’s petite beauty and fiery disposition, but by her home’s mysterious past. Unfortunately, his fascination with her house turns perilous when he manages to infuriate the spirit who in turn lashes out against Marimar.
Together, they must set off to uncover the spirit’s dark secret in hopes of finally laying it to rest. For with each encounter the malicious presence diminishes Marimar’s grasp on her sanity and odds of survival.
*Minor spoiler alert a ahead*
The Merging of Shadows is apparently a paranormal romance and the individual elements do add up to something close to it. A teenage girl moves to a new town and meets a handsome boy in a park. He’s surprisingly familiar with her new address, as is everyone in town, as it’s the resident haunted house with a dark history. Our MC must battle with her feelings for this new boy while her life and sanity are threatened at home by the ghost that haunts her. Sounds great right?
Unfortunately the execution is less than exciting. The budding romance I was hoping to journey through was more ‘manipulative married couple’ than ‘awkward teen infatuation’. I had high hopes for a novel written by three women but was sadly let down by toxic sexist tropes and straight up abuse at times. Mar, our MC, is introduced as a loving sister and daughter but as soon a she meets her love interest, Sage, while they take their respective little siblings to the park, she turns into a conniving and manipulative girl. There’s no ‘will they, won’t they’, it just feels like they’ve started dating from their first meeting. Mar goes out of her way to demean Sage for not meeting her masculine standards and then laments the fact that he isn’t making a move, flying off the handle at every turn and jumping right in with jealousy without even hearing a word about ex-girlfriends or having had a history of relationships herself. It all comes out of the blue with the young couple bickering and pushing each other’s buttons so they can claim ‘she’s so hot when she’s angry’ or ‘he’s so cute when he’s upset’. It was an uncomfortable read.
The manipulation and once even physical hitting was bizarre especially as the readers sympathies are tugged on constantly for Sage having an abusive step-father and a neglectful farm life. The step-father doesn’t show up until the last chapter and what does Mar do? Intentionally starts an argument with him so that Sage has to jump in and get hit. Add this to the fact that her cutesy, loving, joking father turns into a threatening abusive man when boys are mentioned. He meets her boyfriend with a rifle on his knee and all she does is roll her eyes, likes it’s normal for a father to try and control his teenage daughter’s social life. The whole thing was uncomfortable for me and just left me feeling sorry for Sage entirely.
And then we get to the ghosts. The paranormal activity in The Merging of Shadows starts off pretty tame; cold spots, insects that are there and then not there, disembodied voices. To be honest the paranormal stuff sort of takes a back seat to the relationship between Sage and Mar, which would have been fine if that were in anyway interesting, but as it stands just comes off as ‘Oh yeah! I forgot about the haunted house!” Later on some paranormal investigators state very clearly that ghosts cannot kill you, because they can’t override God or something (?) and yet when they confront this ghosts is starts slamming people’s heads off walls. The ghost is also apparently a small boy yet when he speaks it’s like a middle aged rapist, again not explained.
So this is one of the oddest things I’ve ever read in a novel and I was thoroughly confused. It did remind me of the metal heads in Neville’s ‘The Ritual‘ which I wasn’t too fond of either but at least they had character. Over halfway through the book Mar goes shopping with her mother. While there, Mar notices some goths who are following her, to which she alerts her mother and they both get out of there pretty fast. You then learn that this has been happening since she was a baby. (I wish I was kidding) Goths have been following her and menacing her in some way since she was a kid and later she finds a van following her with an AC/DC sticker (THE HORROR!) In the end you find out that she has a positive energy and that people with negative energies, i.e goths, are attracted to her because they want to stamp out her energy. The book makes out that goths are these mindless violent zombies. Some of the happiest people I know wear nothing but black so this was the weakest part of the plot for me. Even if it had been seeded just a little at the beginning or any mention of the MC not liking goths had been made but no – it was a weak afterthought with no development.
My experience of The Merging of Shadows was partly influenced by my expectation of the authors and the genre, but I still think the themes and tropes could have been handled much better. This paranormal romance/horror didn’t leave me nostalgic for my teenage loves or particularly scared except maybe of evil goth zombies.
About the Authors –
(Bio taken from Goodreads) PRICE GIRLS is the collective pen name of three sisters Marité, Sheníe, and Taís Price. The three of them live in the urban city of Olympia, Washington, where they are hard at work writing during the day and conjuring scary ideas during the night. The Merging of Shadows is their first novel.
For more information about their upcoming novels, visit them online at threepricegirls.blogspot.com
Links to Buy and Review –
What do you think about books written by siblings? Would you ever start a project with your adult siblings? Should YA romance depict abusive relationships?