If you’re scared of snakes you might want to avoid this book! There are lots and lots of snakes in Awakening, from the harmless grass snake to the British adder and the venomous taipan. And in an isolated English village someone is breaking into people’s houses and leaving some of these snakes behind for the unsuspecting residents to find.
Luckily one of the villagers happens to be an expert on reptiles: her name is Clara Benning and she’s our narrator. Due to something that happened in her childhood, Clara has decided she’s more comfortable with animals than people and is working as a vet at a wildlife hospital. And so when the village becomes overrun with snakes, her neighbours come to her for advice. Clara begins to investigate, although she finds communicating with people difficult and would prefer to be left alone. With the help of two very different men – one a local policeman and the other a celebrity snake-handler – Clara is gradually drawn into a fifty year-old mystery which may explain where the snakes are coming from and at the same time she is forced to confront her own fears and insecurities.
Awakening is the second book I’ve read by S.J. Bolton. The first was Sacrifice, which I read earlier in the year and loved. This book had all the things I liked about Sacrifice – the fast pace, the gripping mystery plot, the interesting and independent female protagonist – but I enjoyed this one even more because I was able to connect with Clara more than I did with Tora Hamilton in the previous book. She seemed a more believable and well-developed character. Her personal background intrigued me immediately and the balance between this part of the story and the snake storyline was perfect.
Something else that I loved about this book was the setting. A lot of the action seems to take place at night and the small rural village feels very eerie and sinister in the dark. There are some gothic elements too, including graveyards, abandoned houses, old churches, underground tunnels and possible sightings of ghosts. As for the snakes, if you actually have a phobia about them you probably wouldn’t want to read this book, but otherwise you should be okay. I don’t particularly like them and certainly wouldn’t want to find one in my bedroom, but reading about snakes isn’t a problem for me and I enjoyed all the little facts about them that were dropped into the story without slowing the plot down at all.
Now I’m looking forward to reading Bolton’s other books, Blood Harvest and Now You See Me.