** Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review **
As soon as I read the description of this novel online, having come across it on Twitter, I wanted to tell the author: you had me at New Orleans and witches. Add to that a plantation, a historical southern setting, and Vodun (the West African tradition that became Louisiana voodoo), and you’ve got me hook, line, and sinker. The novel starts off in an interesting way with the protagonist relaying to the reader that a hurricane “nearly destroyed” the plantation on the day she was born.
I absolutely loved the design element of using a vèvè or symbol that represents the loa, or voodoo spirits, to demarcate scene breaks.
The protagonist Jacqueline’s family life is cruel to say the least. She is one of the many children the plantation master has had with slave women, and is forced to interact with Lottie, the master’s daughter, her half-sister. She and her mother are house slaves, and Jacqueline notices early on she seems to have some of the same gifts her mother does with magic. She has nightmares about a white man with green eyes, which proves to be a compelling introduction to a memorable character in the book who arrives later on.
Lottie soon reveals herself to be extremely manipulative and volatile. Her older brother, Jimmy, also shares her penchant for cruelty, especially toward the slaves. There’s a very disturbing component to their relationship, and I’m going to leave it at that. Physical assault, which is painfully a reality of the historical period, occurs in this novel, and should be taken into account for readers with trigger warnings. The remorseless and unflinching realities of slavery are on full display in this novel.
Jacqueline learns early on that she has some magical ability, something she gets from her mother. When Lottie marries a man named James Lynch, she takes Jacqueline with her and they move to the French Quarter where there are other slaves in the household. The rich, vivid descriptions made the novel jump off the page for me throughout, but particularly in this section. Things get even more interesting when a guest arrives at their house, Carlos Velasquez, who turns out to be a vampire.
Vampires + French Quarter + New Orleans + night = doesn’t get much cooler than that. One of the things I appreciated about Jacqueline was that even though she and Carlos have a vivid attraction and want each other, she didn’t blindly forgive his vampiric nature or look past it the way many other female protagonists have done in paranormal romance or YA novels, nor does she form part of the “Oh, but I’m different, I can handle it” trope. It has always frustrated me when they see the viciousness of the vampire’s feeding and the way they take what they want, especially when sex is involved, and somehow this doesn’t bother them, so I was glad to see that Jacqueline didn’t just sweep this under the rug as it involved Carlos. The author also balanced this quite well with Jacqueline’s desire for Carlos, making it clear how much of a temptation he is, and making the reader question his sincerity at every turn.
A werewolf gets involved in things, and even though it sort of ends up teasing Twilight territory, it avoids the love triangle trope for the most part. Carlos warns Jacqueline that she won’t recognize the wolf when it appears to her in human form, insisting it will try to deceive her and do her harm. She also has adventures with some circus folk later on, and then moves to a town where she discovers some family secrets, which is all I’m going to say because I don’t want to spoil how immersive and amazing this section was.
Despite some pacing issues toward the end, which felt a bit rushed, I could not put this book down. I can’t describe how amazing it is. Readers need to read it for themselves to experience how immersive, captivating, and compelling Invisible Chains is. Folks who enjoy romance and historical fiction mixed with in with their fantasy novels will get a huge kick out of this story as I did. If that happens not to be your cup of tea, then you may wish to go for other fare, but I would encourage readers to read this novel because it’s not a straight-up romance novel. It focuses on Jacqueline’s journey, all the people she meets along the way, the struggles she endures, and is one of the best novels of the year. Do yourself a favour and add Invisible Chains to your reading list.