Everyone in Ballyfran has a secret, and that is what binds them together…
Fifteen-year-old twins Madeline and Catlin move to a new life in Ballyfran, a strange isolated town, a place where, for the last sixty years, teenage girls have gone missing in the surrounding mountains.
As distance grows between the twins – as Catlin falls in love, and Madeline begins to understand her own nascent witchcraft – Madeline discovers that Ballyfrann is a place full of predators. Not only foxes, owls and crows, but also supernatural beings who for many generations have congregated here to escape persecution. When Catlin falls into the gravest danger of all, Madeline must ask herself who she really is, and who she wants to be – or rather, who she might have to become to save her sister.
Dark and otherworldly, this is an enthralling story about the bond between sisters and the sacrifices we make for those we care about the most.
Huge thanks to Tina at Hot Key for sending me an ARC to read and review!
As soon as I opened up Perfectly Preventable Deaths, I could immediately feel the dark, chilly atmosphere seeping through it’s pages. The book opens with twins Madeline and Catlin moving to Ballyfran, a secretive village surrounded by mountains. Catlin, being a popular, outgoing extrovert, is dreading moving to the middle of nowhere, whereas her introverted twin Madeline only worries about Catlin’s social life taking a hit. This is very much the relationship between the twins throughout the book – Catlin being selfish that it verges on toxic, and Madeline only ever looking out for her sister, even when Catlin won’t listen. Madeline immediately comes across as being the odd one of the family; staying mostly to herself and ‘collecting’ things such as leaves, bits of twigs, and salt.
After moving to their new stepdad’s house in Ballyfran (which, did I mention, is more of a castle than a house), Madeline manages to integrate into the closed off society whereas Catlin immediately gets involved with a suspicious boy surrounded by rumours. Madeline especially forms an interest in Mamo, who lives in a sort of outhouse of the castle and is also portrayed as one of the odd ones out, even in a village full of secrets and seclusion. The two form a bond through their affinities for the earthy witchcraft Mamo practices. As Madeline begins to uncover the magic and sacrifices she finds around Ballyfran, she also learns that her family has its own secrets, and is determined to get to the root of the issue before Catlin is hurt.
I really enjoyed Madeline’s character and found her to be very relatable – she’s interested in the magical power she could harness, but also fears it, and only wants what’s best for those she loves. She’s a girl who’s been suppressing her own needs for years in order to see that Catlin is happy, and even when she meets a girl in Ballyfran who she falls for quite quickly, Catlin’s safety is always first in her mind. Catlin was definitely less relatable, but I think she was meant to be written in such a way. The world building was second to none and I could really imagine that I was climbing some cold, misty Irish mountains whilst I was reading. I’d definitely say this is mostly a character driven book, full of an ancient magical atmosphere, and would very much recommend it for anyone looking for something like this.
I will point out that there is more than one instance where an animal dies, is mutilated or is sacrificed, and one of these scenes (towards the end of the book) is very graphic and I did struggle to read it. Although these weren’t pleasant parts, they did make sense within the plot, but I felt it important to point out.
Overall, Perfectly Preventable Deaths was a perfectly dark and atmospheric witchy coming of age story. It’s out now!