Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Posted October 12, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 40 Comments

Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin
The Fall by Bethany Griffin
Published by Greenwillow Books
Published on: October 7, 2014
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
One StarOne Star
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Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down?The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.


ya freaky WTF


When I was in college, I CLEP-ed out of Survey of American Literature. I did this b/c I HATE American Lit. I hate Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Meville, Hemingway, Faulkner, I hate them ALL.

There is one exception . . .

Edgar Allen Poe.

As much as I hate the others, I love Poe.

I love Poe so much that for the first time ever, I felt like I had a legitimate reason for picking one football team over the other in the Superbowl a couple of years ago . . . the Baltimore RAVENS (b/c Poe lived in Baltimore).

#sorryimnotsorry

While Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher isn’t my favorite of his short stories, I’m familiar with it, and I appreciate it. And more importantly it’s the kind of horror I can get down with, the more cerebral kind of horror. It’s written from the POV of Roderick Usher’s boyhood friend, who has come to visit at Usher’s request. The setting is exceedingly ominous, and someone is inevitably buried alive.

So when I saw The Fall by Bethany Griffin, it was a no-brainer—how cool would it be to use Poe’s original story as the foundation of an entire novel, told from to POV of Roderick’s sister? SO cool.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

I rarely read horror (b/c chicken). That being said, when I do read horror, especially when it’s October, Autumn (my favorite season) is creeping in, and Halloween is looming in the distance, I want to be, at the very least, seriously creeped out.

The creepiest part of this book was the expectation of a taboo brother/sister relationship, which is, yes, seriously creepy, but it was not the kind of creepy I was looking for.

I wanted sinister, I wanted malevolent, I wanted foreboding . . . and I didn’t get it.

Maybe that’s on me, maybe it isn’t. I don’t know.

But that wasn’t the only problem.

Roderick and Madeleine Usher are twins. They are the only children in their household, so it’s no surprise that they are very close. Even as children, there were hints of something more between them (ICK), but they are separated when, in their mother’s attempt to stave off the family illness from her favored offspring, Roderick is sent away to school, leaving Madeleine alone.

Except for the house that has chosen her as its heir.

Okay, so that’s sufficiently creepy.

But while the idea itself had a definite creep factor, the overall feel of the book, the setting, many of the evidences of the sentience of the house . . . did not. Which is surprising, b/c given the scenario, it should have been like shooting fish in a barrel.

And that’s not the worst of it.

When Roderick goes away to school, Madeleine decides to start a garden. We’re told that both the house and the surrounding area are cursed, and specifically that the curse causes every growing thing on the grounds to become diseased and/or rot, yet Madeleine is inexplicably able to grow healthy ivy. AND not just any ivy, ivy that can ultimately counter the evil of the house.

Eh?

And sure, I suppose that in a world where a house and family can become cursed, there can be other types of magic as well, but where this alien ivy magic comes from is never revealed.

There is also no explanation for the survival and reappearance of a certain proper noun (sorry, can’t tell), presumed dead, after sacrificing itself to save Madeleine from the friendly neighborhood KRAKEN (or monster octopus/squid/whatever—it’s unclear, so I went with KRAKEN) that lives in the noxious waters of the House’s tarn (a small mountain lake).

Then there was the open ending. *sighs*

But despite all those things, it wasn’t all bad. Dr. Winston was a superbly diabolical character, and many of the other characters and situations that were merely hinted at in the original were fleshed-out beautifully in The Fall. I’d recommend this anyone who thinks they might like horror-lite, or who doesn’t get hung up on things like understanding why and/or how the villain is defeated.

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.

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40 responses to “Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

  1. I have been very curious about this one but a bit wary cause I didn’t like the previous book by this author that I had tried (it was a DNF for now, and still haven’t returned to it…) but I was looking forward to some mild horror (yes, I’m also a massive wuss!)…

    Now after your review I’m even more in the fence… Oh well!
    Thank you Jessica!
    Pili recently posted…Showcase Sunday #47 & hiatus announcement!

  2. I understand why you expected all that but it’s sad you didn’t have all you wanted… It sounded really interesting, mainly in the Poe idea, but I’m sorry it wasn’t up to that. I think I’ll pass.

    • Well . . . you could wait just to be safe, and if you really like it after borrowing it from the library, then you could buy it 😉 It all depends on how bothered you’d be by the lack of an explanation.

  3. I’m sad you didn’t like this one as much as I did but I get it. I didn’t go into this expecting a horror, more a gothic, so maybe that made a difference. I thought the atmosphere was fantastic and I loved the eerie vibe throughout. It’s def weird with the whole house and Ivy thing but I love weird >.< Great review, Jessica! At least you didn't absolutely hate it! 😉
    Giselle recently posted…Interview with Cat Winters, author of The Cure for Dreaming + Giveaway!

  4. Funny how I really should run away from this one, yet I’m still very curious..I think is could come down and how much I’m sold on growing the garden under those circumstances and the overall believability of the story, but then again every fiction book is in the same boat..lol
    Great review Jessica 🙂
    Lupdilup recently posted…Immortal Audiobook by J. R. Ward (Review)

  5. I have to agree with you. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the only authors that I can wholeheartedly say I love. That being said, I’ve never actually read the story this book is based on, but I’ve heard of it.
    While a bit disappointing I still want to read it. I love reading about relationships. *shrugs*

    Great review, Jessica.

  6. I’ve seen a bunch of really awesome reviews for this book, so it’s sad you didn’t like it. But yours is the only review that mentions non-closure ending and a slightly icky relationship. Those are both good things to know. I still have this on my wishlist since POE, but it’s good to hear a non-loving side too.
    Sarah recently posted…Review: The Gods of War

  7. I love a good horror story, and the more darkly atmospheric the better. I find Poe strangley fascinating, so I’m excited to check this one out. I’ve heard it mentioned about the possible ‘ick factor’ and that does not surprise me with Poe (not sure if it’s in the original or not.) I just my got a copy from the library – so we shall see *rubbing hands* lol 🙂
    kim { Book Swoon } recently posted…Adult Book Review: Sky Pirates by Liesel Schwarz

  8. haha I like the WTF picture. It sounds like an eerie premise. I’ve never read the original, but I’m sorry it didn’t do it for you. There’s nothing wrong with being a chicken, the cowards survive! lol @ not the kind of creepy you wanted. I hate books that don’t end, between that and the being saved by magic ivy I think I’ll pass on this one. Thanks for saving me from it. 🙂
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and Blood of Olympus By Rick Riordan

  9. I’m not a big fan of American lit either, honestly. I definitely prefer Canadian lit, hehe. 😉 That said I did enjoy the Fall of the House of Usher and it sounds like The Fall didn’t really do it justice. The idea of turning that house into a place of light and goodness just seems so impossible…it’s the classic American Gothic idea of a haunted house. The incest vibe between siblings is also classic Gothic, sadly. Too creepy.
    Danya recently posted…ARC Review: Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge

  10. *ick* Brother / sister relationship you said? That isn’t even truly creepy to me, just seriously icky! So I would probably not be very happy with The Fall, either, Jessica. And I am like you when it comes to horror, too, I don’t read a lot of horror stories, but when I do, I want to be a little scared and a lot creeped out.
    Great review 🙂
    Lexxie recently posted…Review: Follow – J.A. Huss

  11. I love Poe, too, Jessica. So I’m always excited when I see stories using his work as the foundation. However, I’m thinking I may steer clear of The Fall. The creep factor is one of the best things about Poe so I don’t think it was wrong to expect that element in something based on his story. And while I’m glad there was a well-done diabolical character, it seems like that was the only bright spot. That’s just too bad. Your review though, is very well-done! 😉
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…**That’s What HE Said ~ #15**