A press of feathers - by TC Parker
Updated: Jan 7
This review contains spoilers.
Reviewing “A press of feathers” in isolation was always going to be a tough call. I came to the book through Nat’s (T.C.Parker) other books, Salvation Spring and Saltblood, and as there are repeating themes throughout all the books, it’s maddeningly hard not to compare the three, given that they are all written with the eminently likable and eloquent voice Parker employs on the page, and also given that they have reoccurring threads or story devices – but we’ll get to that below.
The premise of APOF is that of past events impinging on the present – a locational story, where a specific area of land is, in effect, haunted, by a rage-fueled God. The specific area of land that is used as a new housing development, is built upon the grounds of an old disused mental institution, which itself was built upon the ruins of a temple dedicated to a god. That something lingers in the area and multiplies its presence through the unfortunate people who are incarcerated there is the base of the story.
Leading the novel, we have two strong female main characters, Bea and Lou. Lou, recently redundant, decides to investigate a series of murders in the area, with the idea of producing a blog. Bea has just moved to a new housing development - which acts like a commune – after her recent divorce has made living anywhere else untenable. As the story develops, the two women come together, each with individual experiences and information, and also have a shared experience, which helps define their friendship and commitment to unraveling the mystery of both the murders and the strange phenomenon occurring.
Ok, I think that was a clear enough summary. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
APOF suffers, in that I had read the other two books previously mentioned, and all three have commonalities which are core elements in all of the books. Whilst those threads are not weak by themselves, having read the first two, it did influence my thinking about the phenomenon occurring. Pretty early on, I assumed the phenomenon was locational, and based around a God/Deity and similarly, that the two strong women would come together to solve/resolve the crisis. And that’s great, horror needs more strong-women representation, and TC delivers on that promise. But it was following a pattern.
With that core base being in all three books, other threads are then added that occur in only two of the books – for example, a human “head figure” is given as a focus for the readers dislike – In Saltblood it was Hampton. Here, it is Lawrence Jordan, the owner of the housing development. And it works. T.C’s prose is on target, she manages to instill a sense of wrongness in the man, despite the calm reasonable demeanor he exudes.
Bea, who lives in a house on the estate, and who is still emotionally impacted by her divorce, experiences several moments of “interaction” with the previous “tenants” of the land, images of tortured young women, flashes of scenes from the temple, and images of people being recently murdered. Those experiences she internalizes – works through them, deciphering them as a form of mental instability, and that process itself is documented. For me, honestly, almost over documented. I have to say that the second quarter of the book lost an amount of impetus due to the internalization from a person convinced they were having a mental breakdown. And I get it – the character had to go through that process to be able to be as strong as she was at the end, in order to deal with the horror that the deity unleashed. But it stalled the book, somewhat - unusual – compared to the flow I am used to from T.C. previously. The book picked up, and raced to the end, but I think we stayed too long in Bea’s thoughts in that quarter.
I think that Lou, who started off strong, and very likable, continued throughout the book as strong and likable, but at the end, for me, was under-utilized. Lou is a great character, her search for the truth of the murders (her motivation) – for me, she was the most interesting and likable character. But this was always going to be Bea’s book. Bea’s transformation from somewhat broken divorcee to – well, survivor, I think, given the death toll in the book! So, Lou provides the information which Bea requires, but in the “Boss battle” at the end, is relegated to the sidelines, despite throwing a lifeline to Bea in her moment of need. Hard to see how it could have been done otherwise, but it doesn’t lessen the regret I felt that Lou became a secondary character, despite the short poignant scene at the end, of her starting off again in a blossoming relationship. I wanted more Lou! And that is a great indication of character work – T.C. nailed it with both Bea and Lou.
The ending was dramatic, I don’t know that I was as emotionally engaged in the battle as I should have been, it became somewhat removed, with the superpowers. And it took being a part of the “beardalong” with Well read beard and E, on Goodreads, to crystalize what I felt was missing– that the “monster” in this book, remains distant. It does not kill itself, it makes others do so. It is not in the final battle scene, it uses figureheads.
Also, obvious threads were left unexplored – If a god in a pantheon exists, surely by association, all of the other gods exist too? No exploration of that logical conclusion came. Should we be worried? And a previously minor character is left to deal with the god and does so with no problems, which of course negates, to a certain extent, Bea and Lou’s work throughout the book.
To remain fair and not compare it to Nat’s other books, I’m judging this by itself, and frankly, I liked the book. T.C. has an amazing voice, you learn new words from everything she writes (my take away this time was “Retroussé – who’d have thunk?!), the book remains demandingly, frustratingly readable (time! I need more time in my life), and feel comfortable in her books, knowing that they will be well researched, eloquent, female-driven and with dialogue that reads as naturally as it gets.
I look forward to my next Parker book. This is a 4 out of 5 ⭐'s, it was engaging, thought-provoking, and continues the trend of TC’s fantastic management of world-building. Hurry up with the next one!
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