Spiritualism, the suffragette movement, and the fairy tales of Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald combine with the author’s lyrical writing style to convey an elegant sense of mystery and otherworldliness. This gothic fantasy will captivate fans of historical fiction.
Women are the story’s primary actors, finding clever ways—including the occult—to skirt discrimination and advance their cause during a turbulent time. The action swirls in a maelstrom of spiritualism, revived after Victoria’s passing, and the subsequent rational backlash ... Steeped in a slew of influences, The Golden Key bends genres. It’s part Shirley Jackson’s stories of inner demons, part Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland...part Astrid Lindgren’s faith in children’s resilience and part ghost story. A lush, unsettled atmosphere echoes in lugubrious descriptions of the Fens ... Enter a mysterious world in the hands of capable women. Getting drawn into this story is easy; getting out again is trickier.
If the worst happens in The Golden Key, it’s because wise women were not believed, or because those with too much power were given dangerous leeway. That lesson looms in the final, horrifying, and entrancing moments of this fairy tale with a twist.
Womack‘s ethereal debut novel...is precise and eerie, but emotionally flat ... Plot and character alike are subordinated to dazzling atmospherics and a pervasive humorless gloom. With a slow, dreamlike pace, this could hardly be considered a page-turner, and readers looking for a more traditional supernatural detective story will be dissatisfied. Patient readers willing to wade through Womack’s murky, off-kilter world will be rewarded with moments of disquieting beauty.