Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: A beautiful story that absolutely must be read.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: London during the Great Exhibition of 1851 is a new world of technological advances, eye-popping inventions, and glimpses of exotic treasures from the East. For fifteen-year-old Norris Woodhead, it’s a time of spectral figures mingling with London’s daily crowds and an old rectory in a far corner of the English countryside — a great house literally caught in time, where answers to curious little mysteries await him.
Confined by his family’s financial woes, Norris suffers a lonely and unsatisfying time till the day he (and only he) notices “shadow-people” in the streets. Then a strange widow appears, rents a vacant room in the house, and takes him under her wing. She becomes his guardian, slowly revealing those shadows’ secrets, Norris’ connection with them, and the life-altering choices he has to face in the end.
The Twilight Gods is a retelling of the Native American folktale, “The Girl Who Married a Ghost.” Set in Victorian England, it’s an alternative perspective on a gay teen’s coming-out process, with Norris’ journey of self-discovery couched in magical and supernatural terms and imagery.
Review: I love Victorian literature, and right now I’m actually studying it for a graduate course I am in, so reading this novel by Hayden Thorne featuring that period and including the Great Exhibition was timely. And, I must say this novel is incredibly well researched.
That said I’m not sure how to review this book. I absolutely loved it, and that’s the problem. The book was so good I want to gush and gush for days about it, but at the same time I want other readers to discover how wonderful it is for themselves, because there’s so much wonder and beauty in this young adult novel.
Norris is a sympathetic character. The youngest of four, his family struggles financially. Between his older brother trying to save enough to propose to the girl he loves, to his older sisters squabbling every chance they can get and trying to outdo each other on the marriage market, Norris is often forgotten. In fact, he’s so forgotten he doesn’t even go to school; instead, the family has one of their tenants tutoring Norris with old books that are falling apart. And Norris just wants an education. He wants to learn science so he can properly tinker with things and make them work.
One day he starts to see the shadow-people. I’ll admit I had an idea of what they were at first, and I thought it was brilliant. I become so engaged with the story and with Norris attempting to discover who they were that I stayed up until 4AM to finish. I’m so glad I didn’t have to work the next day. I just couldn’t put the book down.
Mrs. Cavendish is a mysterious character, and I loved her for everything she did for Norris. She takes him under her wing and helps him learn about himself. And then there’s Tom. I loved Tom. The rectory is such a wonderful place; I wish it existed because even today, in the twenty-first century, there are people who need it.
While beautiful, I thought the ending was heartbreaking. The choices Norris must make are difficult, and while perfect for the nineteenth century, sadly they are choices people still feel they must make today. It broke my heart and I sobbed through the last few pages. It was perfectly bittersweet.
I don’t want to say any more, for fear of giving away too much. But I will say this. I will be buying a paperback copy of The Twilight Gods for my classroom and for my personal shelves. I adored it and want my students to read it, too.
You can buy The Twilight Gods here: