The Medium (Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy #1) by C. J. Archer
My Review: 4.5 Stars
This is a faux-Victorian novel about that popular Victorian fad: spiritualism. Emily Chambers is a spirit medium living with her sister Celia, after the death of their mother so many years ago. Emily doesn’t know who her father was and Celia won’t help solve the mystery. When Celia accidentally releases a shape-shifting demon, a ghost named Jacob is sent to speak to Emily in order to send the demon back to the Otherworld before it can kill anyone. But Jacob is not like the other ghosts Emily sees. He’s more solid and real, and the circumstances surrounding his death are just as mysterious as Emily’s origins. Soon, she finds herself involved with members of high society – and falling in love with a dead man.
What makes this book so brilliant is, first, the conversations Emily has with Jacob in front of her friends and sister, when they can’t hear or see Jacob. I loved how Jacob played with this and said all sorts of cheeky things about people, with them right beside him and unable to hear. The author handled these scenes well, creating humour rather than confusion. Jacob is also the first of these romantic figures I’ve genuinely liked in quite a long time. He wasn’t wooden or two-dimensional. Neither was Emily, and I appreciated that the author took the time to show them getting to know each other and falling in love. They were a believable couple and I was really rooting for them, feeling frustrated by the fact of his death and hoping for some miraculous way out of the situation.
That’s another great point about this book: the reason for the romantic tension. They had a valid reason not to be together: he was dead and she was alive. There were no unintelligible rules set by some Elvin king or whatever cockamamey idea I’ve read in a thousand other such books. The tragedy of Jacob’s early death was woven together well. I liked the idea of him regretting how he’d lived and now learning to be a better man, in death. The side characters were also strong.
I also appreciated how believable it was as a Victorian novel. The author has clearly read a lot of them, because she was so spot-on. I’ll admit at the end, I was slightly puzzled about how some of the elements of the mystery fit together, which is why I’ve given this 4.5 stars. All the same, I was completely drawn into the world of Emily and Jacob and couldn’t wait to read book 2.