I opened The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements anxious and excited, and I was not disappointed. Published yesterday, this novel is eerie and dark, relying on gradual tension building. As the reader, you must commit yourself to reading this book and choosing which characters to trust along the way. With a lot of murder, spooky ghost stories embedded and a weird atmosphere overall, this book is not for everyone, but it certainly is for those with a dark taste.
The Coffin Path is told from a few narrative perspectives, focusing on Mercy Booth and Ellis Ferreby as he mysteriously arrives at the gothic setting, Scarcross Hall. As with any brilliant gothic horror, the setting starts off as mildly eerie, yet full of life with the characters who liven the hall. However, one by one their true natures are revealed, as Mercy deals with learning some harrowing truths about her family and spooky happenings in the night. As sheep start to die around her, old witching rumours resurface as she is branded as evil and cast out from society.
What I liked
I liked this book because it dives straight in at the deep end and doesn’t let the reader up for air very often. It begins with some rather gross descriptions of sheep giving birth, which sets the tone for the rest of the novel. From there, the dark, winter setting reflected the slowly darkening spirits of Scarcross Hall’s residents. As they learn of their fates and come to plenty of realisations, their natures emerge and I enjoyed seeing the difference in how each character dealt with loss and grief.
Agnes is a very likeable character, as she senses when things are amiss yet is often ignored until something is needed from her. Sam, the young boy, is essentially the mischief maker, causing incidents to happen yet not realising the effect they are having on the rest of the families. Ellis comes across very well for most of the story, and as a reader, I was drawn to his quiet, heroic behaviour, which you can never fully trust. Mercy’s character grows a lot within the story, as she takes on more responsibility and ‘presents herself as a man’ in order to keep the lives of her family stable.
The narrative itself is slow-paced, however keeps you gripped as the tension is built. I enjoyed the realistic nature and the way that the historical aspects are presented; Mercy struggling to prove that she is the rightful heir to Scarcross Hall whilst being a woman.
What could have been done better
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about this novel; the characters are well thought out, they inspire emotion and make you trust their nature. However, there were a few chapters which I felt dragged the narrative out unnecessarily. I felt that the characters spent a lot of time not talking about a lot of things, yet having conversations with subtext of the real issues which got frustrating at times, particularly between Mercy and Ellis.
Aside from this, I didn’t not like anything particularly. This book would not be for everyone, and nor should it be.
Overall, I felt that the narrative was inspired, using accurate historical quirks and figures, such as the companion. The characters saw some real development and none of them were one-sided, superficial or used as plot devices. Any avid read will appreciate all of these things. This novel is inherently gothic, dark and murderous. I loved the creepy settings, the awful depictions of birth and death how they really are, as opposed to how people describe them usually. It was candid and there was an air of deception and mystery surrounding a lot of the characters.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a strong stomach, who wants to be unsettled and a bit disturbed. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.