Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“The past will never sleep.”
This author has perfected a ghostly storytelling that will stick in your head for some time! Be prepared to be drawn in from the very beginning, get completely spooked by endless strange experiences and become attached to the main character and his story so much that you forget this is a work of fiction! I loved every second and I’m so happy to be sharing my review on the blog tour. Make sure you check out all the other reviews from these brilliant book reviewers!
After accepting a generous opportunity to start afresh, Leslie Wills, a young man from Stoke-on-Trent, eagerly begins his long-distance journey to the Scottish Highlands of Elphin, a settled village that sits huddled amongst the dominating mountains. Its people are welcoming, and the beauty of the land is great. But deep within its Highland paths, a location rests hidden from the public’s eye. A location which entices you to learn the truth of its troubled past. But once you bear witness to its sights and sounds, its presences will never allow you to forget.
I loved this author’s tone of voice! There was something very creepy about each sentence, something unique that instantly made me want to lock every door and window and turn on all the lights! The prologue was insanely good and really does set us up for a journey to remember. I felt a nervous feeling throughout reading the author’s words, something that is very difficult to describe but one I’d experience again in a heartbeat. It’s clear this author knows exactly how to start a book of this genre to grab the attention of the reader and keep them invested, and even after a few pages, I was dying to see what this story was all about. We’re introduced to Leslie Wills, and we’re given a good bit of backstory to help us digest the kind of life this character had growing up. Becoming attached and interested in this character was easy, and the author’s words made me so eager to learn more! A strong start to the book which led nicely onto some pretty strange goings on…
Leslie starts to experience some unexplainable things. A knock on the door with no one there, loud noises without any explanation whatsoever. I kept putting myself in Leslie’s shoes, knowing I would completely freak out if I experienced things like this in the real world. Anyway, what would a ghost story be without a bit of these strange goings on?! It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything like this (I think the closest would be Duncan Thompson or Debbie Ioanna’s works, but even then they’re very different from each other in their own brilliant ways!) The chance to start afresh in a new town should feel like a new start. A new safe place. But as the opportunity arises for Leslie, I had the feeling that this place would be anything but ‘safe’. It was easy to hang onto the author’s every word, and I felt some weird sense of urgency to get from one chapter to the next. It takes a lot of talent to create this feeling for a reader, and this author had already more than impressed me at this point! I felt anything could happen, and the unpredictability of it all was very addictive.
“I circled my stance, and a frown settled swiftly across my puzzled face, the conclusion quickly hitting me that no one was here to meet me. Not a soul.”
We meet Leslie’s brother, Jonathan, and even though his offer of a new place to stay was generous, there was something odd about this character that I couldn’t put my finger on. Maybe this was because I was always on edge, expecting something out of the ordinary or dangerous to happen, or maybe the author was just so damn good at creating characters to watch out for! After a very long journey and no one to greet Leslie at this new place of residence, it was safe to say it wasn’t the best start. This house was in the middle of nowhere, and the way it was described seemed a little eerie to say the least. The author’s description never fails to place you at a specific place in time, capturing your senses and making you feel like you needed to run a mile from this place! Was he being watched? Was he truly alone here? What would he experience next? The first night in the house was far from peaceful, and I loved reading about how tense and disturbed Leslie felt. I was excited to find out what else he experienced!
The author has really nailed that feeling of being terrified and scared of what could potentially be behind the closed doors of this house or what could be lurking in the shadows. The description was really good, and it took me back to certain times in my past where I’ve felt that scared, unsettling feeling about a place! Leslie begins to talk to the locals (if you can call them locals with him being so far away from civilisation at Elphin Cottage) and he learns more about the past of a nearby location. It seemed there was still so much to learn about this new place, and it’s clear it wouldn’t all be plain sailing from here. I prepared myself for a few spooks along the way! I was really enjoying the book so far, and I couldn’t predict where things would go from here. It seemed as though a dark cloud was looming however, with no indication of what it may bring… I wasn’t entirely sure Leslie was safe in the Scottish Highlands!
Leslie has his first encounter with some unnatural being, something that certainly doesn’t seem human, and something that would scare me half to death if I saw it when I was out alone! Combine this with even more unexplainable noises and this would certainly be enough for me to leave this place for good. Leslie seemed to be a pretty brave guy though, and even though these experiences were scary, he always seemed to stick it out and live to tell the tale. I guess we wouldn’t have a story otherwise! I enjoyed the feeling of being desperate to know Leslie’s fate, and I thought the pacing of everything that happened was well thought out. Not too fast, and not too slow that you constantly feel like you’re waiting for something. Each chapter quickly became such a memorable experience, and sharing Leslie’s thoughts and feelings made everything come to life. I still felt like we were still very early on in the book, and if what we experience at this point was mild, I couldn’t wait to see how the author would turn things up a notch!
The mysterious cottage across the moor from Elphin Cottage really intrigued me. I loved the idea of this cottage ‘disappearing’ even though Leslie sees flickering lights coming from it at certain points. I even loved how much I was thinking about this place, even when I wasn’t reading the book! I just couldn’t put my finger on what was going on here, and I loved how we were always kept guessing from very early on. When he finally gets a clear look at this building, it seems derelict and a little worse for wear, and the description of each part of it was so easy to visualise. I also liked just how significant Mr Coull was to the story. The book was getting some great depth the more I read and questions were already starting to build up in my mind. It wasn’t until a huge storm hits the town that things become even stranger, and Leslie experiences more than he bargained for. Would he ever get to the bottom of it all? Would he ever find out the truth about this cottage, the unexplainable things he experienced?
“I brushed both hands through my hair and rested back, drifting into a deep sleep accompanied by an unforgettable terror that surrounded my dreams.”
I found the author to be really talented in building suspense, and I found myself holding my breath on multiple occasions, waiting for something to happen. Leslie finally gets the information he’s been after concerning that mystery cottage and exactly who that ghostly figure could have been, and the way this was delivered in conversation was particularly gripping. The detail was incredible and the story itself felt like it should have been told outside whilst sat around a roaring fire and toasting marshmallows! The author flawlessly tells a whole new story within the story (if that makes sense!) and did an amazing job of keeping me hooked. At times, I became lost in this story about the past, and I loved how the past and the present collided. The things we learn are so unexpected, but this creates a deeper understanding of a range of characters and a whole new depth for the story. It was just brilliant!
It was here where the title of the book made so much sense, and the retelling of this tale about the old Clais Cottage many years ago becomes so dark, even saddening in parts. The author has brought out every emotion so vividly, forcing the reader to share these emotions with the characters involved, and the way this was done was a bit mind blowing if I was honest! I felt like I was sharing Leslie’s thoughts as he comes to terms with the information he’s learnt, and I couldn’t stop thinking about everything we’ve discovered! I was starting to like Mr Coull more and more as time went on – he seemed like such a genuine person that has seen so much in his time and heard all the stories in this place. The way he takes care of Leslie was really reassuring, and I felt as though he was the best person to have on your side! I was excited to find out how this story would impact Leslie’s life going forward and I couldn’t wait to see how it would end!
After questioning Mr Coull about an old photograph, Leslie notices a change in this character’s tone. I was just as curious as Leslie here – what was this photograph doing in Elphin Cottage and why was Mr Coull present? Leslie finds numerous written recounts/diary entries from years into the past, and it genuinely felt like stepping back in time. From the tone of these entries to what is being described, I felt like we began to know these characters on a more personal level. It was so easy to get sucked into these snippets of information! It felt a little creepy in parts as some of these entries described a storm very similar to what Leslie has just experienced in Elphin, and I couldn’t help but wonder if history could repeat itself… I was really enjoying the direction the story was taking towards the end, but I also felt like there was so much left to discover. I wondered if my questions would be answered or if the author has another book in the works!
It was terrifying reading about Peter Daily’s experiences in 1847, even more so knowing that Leslie had experienced similar things in the present day. The idea of a family still lingering in Elphin long after their deaths made for such an eerie atmosphere, and even though it scared me a bit, I couldn’t get enough! It certainly fitted in with the ghost story theme exceptionally well. I loved seeing Leslie’s bravery increase the more he understands just what he may be dealing with once night falls, and he plucks up the courage to face his fears, solving the whole mystery. It was a terribly exciting time of the book and quite possibly my favourite part! The book also places focus on Mr Coull at this point, and I enjoyed reading about life and his experiences from his point of view. However, the tone quickly became much darker than it had been yet, and I began to fly through the ending chapters, desperate for answers. I just hoped Leslie would retain his sanity.
“Tonight, I would discover my bravery. Tonight, I would face the unknown. Tonight, I deemed myself worthy of resolving the mystery.”
I soon became concerned for Leslie’s safety as he finds himself amongst the things he’d feared for so long. With Mr Coull by his side, they experience a horror more terrifying than we’d seen yet, and this part of the book gave me such intense chills. I was torn between feeling horrified about what was going on, and what these characters were seeing, and saddened for Martha Ferrell, as she was tirelessly tormented by her past. The way the plot developed to this point was fantastic, and the way I felt about different characters was all down to the author’s exceptional wording and vocabulary. It was a truly magical experience and I think the author has perfected this ending in a way that I would have never expected. With only one way to ensure this darkness and torment ended for good, I was curious to know whether Leslie would be able to go through with the task. Could the cottage be destroyed for good? Was it the only way to get peace once more?
I didn’t expect to shed a tear at the ending of a book like this, but it was impossible not to feel a bit of heartbreak! The ending of the book was really quite saddening in parts, but also gave me a sense of warmth and hope. Leslie’s ordeal would stick with me for some time, and I’m sure it would be just as unforgettable for him too! The author has rounded things off in the most perfect way, and the twists and turns just make the book even better than it already is. I don’t want to give too much away at this point, but the ending alone is worth reading this book for! I’m completely and utterly thrilled with the outcome – a real achievement for this author, an author that I’m certainly now a fan of! I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next, but if I’m honest, I already know it’ll be exceptional. Five stars without a doubt!
This is a seriously gripping ghost story that really surprised me! The author creates a unique tone with an unforgettable eerie atmosphere which I thought was very clever indeed, something which must have been difficult to pull off so perfectly. Rayner is a master of tension building and an absolute wizard in creepy storytelling; reading this will certainly have you afraid of the dark for a while! The combination of time frames worked exceptionally well and the characters had such memorable and likeable personalities. All these things combined made this book such an enjoyable read, one that I’ll definitely be giving a second read through. A brilliant, admirable effort from this author!
A huge thank you to the author of the book, M. L. Rayner, and Zoe at Zooloo’s Book Tours for my copy of the book and place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Echoes Of Home on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!