Last month, I ordered a one-time book box from the Unplugged Book Box. They are a book box focused on self-care, and in it I recieved beautiful smelling lotion and perfume as well as a copy of Extasia by Claire Legrand (published by Katherine Tegan Books). Due to the packaging, it made the read even more pleasant with a heady aroma on each page.
But more about the actual book.
Claire Legrand is a former musican turned author with eleven published novels under her belt. She tends to focus on darker and grittier subjects for middle grade and young adult audiences. However, her debut into the adult fantasy world is coming with the Middlemist trilogy, releasing in spring 2023.
Extasia is a young adult horror novel with a specific focus on religious trauma. When the World That Once Was came to an end, God spared one community of people to create Haven and live by His ways. The main character, who goes through a series of names, is about to be annointed a Saint. She hopes with her sainthood she can stop the evil that has been leaking into her village, killing men. But there are dark beasts that follow her and a dark power seeks her out.
I am quite new to the horror genre as a reader. I’ve always interacted with horror tv shows and haunted houses and reading dark fantasy, but I haven’t read a lot of actual horror. So, I’m not quite sure by what criteria I should review this by. It did have a great gothic dark atmosphere, perfect for the witchiness of the plotline. There were also plenty of gory scenes, for those more inclined to body horror. I will say that I personally didn’t find it scary so much as compelling and enticing, where I wanted to turn the pages to see what happens next. However, I’m weird and don’t scare by things that ought to be scary.
I also loved the themes of this book. As someone that has encountered a bit of religious trauma myself, I am curious and like to read about religious horror or books with religious themes–whether for good or for bad. But what really drew me in was the main character’s lesson that things in the world was not all black and white and that perhaps we all have a darkness inside of us.
I thought the main character’s development was really done as she went from someone blindly following what she’d been taught to opening her eyes and questioning everything, even herself. The other characters, however, were not as nuanced. Still, my favorite characters–Blessing and Samuel–didn’t disappoint me.
There were a few minor things that bothered me about this book. It bothered me that all the feminine names were nouns–Temperance, Rage, Hunger, Blessing, etc. It felt like we were too on the nose with these names, really overteaching the lessons of the book with their name changes. There were also a few minor inconsistencies–like when the girls had to write something and could despite saying they never learned their letters. And also, the main character’s father didn’t make sense to me, in some ways. There were a few scenes that made his whole arc confusing to me.
Overall, I’m giving this book three stars. It was good and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I’m obsessed with nor can I ignore the flaws.
Some other forms of art this book reminded of: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The 100.
Trigger warnings: body horror/gore; violence against women; domestic violence; forced imprisonment; attempted rape; torture; cannibalism; someone being burnt alive; death of a parent; religious trauma.
Read an interview with the author here.