Veerle de Keyser

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Urban Legends (Forbidden Spaces Trilogy #3) – Helen Grant

Published January 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A group of story-tellers are disappearing one by one.

A young woman is haunted by her past.

A serial killer has one target he is desperate to hunt down.

Veerle is trying to lie low, to live as ‘normal’ a life as she possibly can. But when you’ve thwarted a serial killer, it’s hard to do this. Especially when he wants revenge . . .

What did I think?:

Urban Legends is the third and final volume in Helen Grant’s Forbidden Spaces trilogy and after the brilliance of the previous two novels, I had high expectations for this one. Well, it did not disappoint! Our heroine Veerle De Keyser is back in her home town after staying with her father and his girlfriend didn’t exactly work out, to put it mildly. Veerle is now eighteen and has matured considerably after her past traumatic experiences. Her only goal is to get her head down, repeat her last year of school and perhaps work out some more normal issues that teenage girls have. Like figuring out how she really feels about her current boyfriend Bram (whom she met while staying in Ghent) while the spectre of her first real relationship with Kris looms over her.

Each book in the series has explored a different and rather murky mystery, typically involving innocent people being killed. In this novel the author develops another compelling narrative which kicks off right from the opening chapter. It involves a group of young people who enjoy meeting up in abandoned buildings, much like the Koekoeken group Veerle joins in the first book. The purpose of their meetings is to swap gruesome urban legends with each other, in competition to become the master storyteller at the end of the night. I absolutely loved the chapters that featured the storytellers as I used to do a similar thing with friends at school and with some of the legends, it was an interesting trip down memory lane where I remembered stories I had previously forgotten (and those that still had the potential to send shivers down my spine, thanks Helen!) 🙂

So as you might have guessed, story-time isn’t exactly fun-time in this novel. Someone is picking off the storytellers one by one and brutally murdering them so when they meet again, there are less of them there to tell the stories. Strangely enough, this is connected back to an old adversary of Veerle’s we first meet in Silent Saturday and he returns darker and definitely more disturbed than before. We are also treated to chapters told from his perspective and believe me, they might make you want to check you locked the doors before you go to bed at night! Even though Veerle is not meant to see her old flame Kris they team up to try and investigate what is going on. They don’t have much time however, as the killer is determined not to be thwarted by anyone – let alone these two and will remove any that dare to stand in his path.

Helen Grant has an undeniable talent for writing thrilling novels and Urban Legends is no exception, providing an action-packed, tense and suspense-filled plot that does not shy away from the darker side of society. By the third book, I felt as if I knew these characters personally and, as a reader, it seemed like I had gone through everything with them. By the dramatic finale, I was literally on the edge of my seat, unable to put down the book for a second until everything had been resolved one way or another. This is such a fantastic series that I believe everyone, no matter what your age who loves a good thriller should read as soon as possible. I’m certainly glad I read it and am very excited to read more by Helen Grant, in fact – I pronounce her the Queen of YA thrillers!

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be featuring an interview with the author of The Forbidden Spaces trilogy, Helen Grant!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Demons Of Ghent (Forbidden Spaces Trilogy #2) – Helen Grant

Published January 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Veerle has moved to Ghent to start a new life with her father and his girlfriend, she’s isolated and alone. But not as alone as she had thought . . .

Veerle recognises a familiar face in the crowds one day, a face connected to a past that she has been fighting to get over, a past that involved murder.

A spate of deaths hit the city but has Death followed Veerle to Ghent or is this something new?

What did I think?:

Demons of Ghent is the second book in Helen Grant’s fabulous Forbidden Spaces trilogy and one I knew I had to read as soon as possible after finishing the first, Silent Saturday. There’s always a worry with the second book in a series that it may suffer from “second book syndrome,” where it does not live up to the glory of the previous novel. I’m happy to say, this was most definitely not the case with Demons of Ghent – in fact, I think I enjoyed it even more. There’s something very comforting coming to a book where we are familiar with the characters back story, personality etc but are still very keen to discover new secrets and the author comes up with some real treasures in this second offering.

I was slightly surprised to discover that the story does not pick up directly where Silent Saturday ended but in a way, it made it more intriguing as a reader to think about exactly what may have occurred. I’m not going to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read the first book in the series but to say Veerle De Keyser’s life has changed dramatically would be an understatement. She has been through hell and back again and when the story opens, she has moved to Ghent to live with her father and his pregnant girlfriend, Anneke. As you may be able to guess, Anneke isn’t exactly thrilled that she is having to play step-mother to her boyfriend’s daughter, especially when she is trying to cement her own new family and she views Veerle as a typical teenage delinquent who has put her father under enough strain already with her “antics” in the last novel. Never mind the trauma that Veerle has gone through, eh?

Veerle is feeling isolated enough as it is, coming to a new town and having to make new friends and when she is told that she categorically cannot see her boyfriend, Kris again she feels even more alone. It doesn’t seem to matter however, as Kris appears to have dropped off the radar completely and isn’t even answering her calls, adding to her misery. Things get stranger still when she appears to spot a girl called Hommel (who also happens to be Kris’s ex-girlfriend by the way) alive and apparently well in Ghent. The fact is, she’s supposed to be dead. All of this combined means Veerle is in desperate need of a friend. Enter Bram, a student at Ghent University and a breath of fresh air for our heroine. He is funny, kind, sensitive, a great shoulder to cry on and introduces Veerle to something connected to one of her great passions, climbing. More specifically, he clambers around the roof-tops of Ghent at night and reminds Veerle that life can be fun again, something she seriously needs.

But, you guessed it…. the fun can only last so long until Death once again rears his ugly head. There is an ancient legend in Ghent that involves demons on the rooftops and in this narrative is connected to The Ghent Altarpiece, a large piece of 15th century art that depicts the Annunciation of Mary, portraits of Christ, John the Baptist and Adam and Eve (amongst others), with the central panel showing the adoration of The Lamb of God overseen by The Holy Spirit. Veerle and Bram stumble upon the horror of people apparently being thrown off the rooftops of Ghent – but is it the work of a demonic entity or just a demonic individual?

I don’t want to say any more about the plot but I just loved the direction in which Helen Grant took this story! There are so many exciting and quite honestly, jaw-dropping moments that I could hardly keep still until I had finished the entire book and even then, she leaves us with such a beauty of a cliffhanger that it immediately had me eagerly anticipating the final book in the trilogy, Urban Legends. The perfect combination of the supernatural with authentic art history made this narrative so thrilling (and educational I might add) that I immediately had to go and research The Ghent Altarpiece after I had finished the novel. Although I needn’t have bothered, the author’s descriptive prose is so vivid, you could almost imagine you were standing in front of the piece without any previous knowledge of it.

The characterisation once again is superb, we see a different, more mature Veerle from Silent Saturday as she struggles to overcome her previous traumas while still dealing with a number of personal/family issues. I did enjoy the lighter side that Bram brought to the narrative and thought he was a fantastic antidote for what Veerle had gone through and a means for her to smile again. For those missing the intensity of Mr Kris Verstraeten however, never fear readers, he does return but things are slightly different for him and Veerle. Say no more! I finished The Demons of Ghent completely in love with this series and hugely excited for the final chapter in the trilogy. Does it HAVE to end though?

Come back tomorrow where I will be reviewing the last book, Urban Legends!

For my review of Silent Saturday, the first book in the series, please click HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Silent Saturday (Forbidden Spaces Trilogy #1) – Helen Grant

Published January 17, 2016 by bibliobeth

16110931What’s it all about?:

Seventeen-year-old Veerle is frustrated with life in suburban Brussels. But a chance encounter with a hidden society, whose members illegally break into unoccupied buildings around the city, soon opens up a whole new world of excitement – and danger.

When one of the society’s founding members disappears, Veerle suspects foul play. But nothing can prepare her for the horror that is about to unfold when an old foe emerges from the shadows… No one is safe, and The Hunter will strike again…

What did I think?:

I’m really excited to introduce everyone to an author new to me and one I’m ever so glad I discovered – Helen Grant. For the next few days I shall be reviewing her Forbidden Spaces trilogy which begins with Silent Saturday, followed on by The Demons of Ghent and finishing with Urban Legends. The day after that I shall be featuring an interview with the lady herself and hopefully by that time I will have persuaded anyone who hasn’t read her before that this is an author well worth trying!

The series is set in Belgium, a beautiful country which Helen has actually lived in herself so I was confident about the authenticity of the setting and was certain I was in safe hands with the narrative as I began to read a gripping and incredibly thrilling story that will both terrify and excite you in equal measure. The descriptions of Brussels and the surrounding area are so intricate that you leave the book feeling like you know the country inside out and I love it when I can picture a setting with such clarity.

Our heroine is seventeen year old Veerle de Keyser who when we meet her is struggling in her relationship with her mother. Claudine is extremely over-protective, relies on Veerle a great deal both emotionally and practically and is beyond paranoid about many issues, but particularly the security of herself and her daughter. Veerle loves her mother a great deal but gets very frustrated with many aspects of her behaviour so, as an outlet, she loves to visit the local climbing wall and becomes very adept at clambering around in tight positions.

As with all aspects of mental illness, there are reasons behind Claudine’s fears and one event in particular greatly affected her relationship with her daughter. It involves something terrifying that Veerle witnessed when she was younger with her childhood friend, Kris Verstraeten, that we will see in this trilogy, returns to haunt her. Kris returns to Veerle’s life after about a ten year hiatus where the two have barely spoken and introduces her to a fascinating new prospect that she cannot resist. The group is the Koekoeken (meaning Cuckoos) and they are a group of people that explore abandoned or uninhabited buildings, for example – residents who have gone on holiday, millionaire’s mansions where the owner is out of the country and a rather spooky and crumbling old castle. It’s not all law-breaking and vandalism however, the group have an unwritten rule that they do something for the house before they leave i.e. a bit of maintenance as a thank you for the use of the building.

Both Veerle and Kris thoroughly enjoy exploring various establishments together and perhaps as expected, develop feelings for each other. However, their world is about to be unbelievably rocked when one of the group is brutally murdered. When certain other members of the Koekoeken seem to be targeted by a ruthless killer with a thirst for violence, Veerle and Kris are terrified that they could be next. Can they go to the police though when they themselves have been technically breaking the law by breaking and entering several properties? The killer appears to have them right where he wants them… and he shows no sign of stopping.

On first reading the premise of this book, I have to say I was beyond excited. I loved the idea of a group exploring empty buildings but doing something nice for the owners on the way out. However, I was not prepared for just how thrilling this novel would be. We get a little insight into the killer – De Jager, or The Hunter and oh my goodness, he is one of the most dark and disturbing villains I have ever read about. I knew beforehand that this was a young adult trilogy but don’t let the genre put you off the author does not skimp on the darkness or the horror of certain situations. In that way, I probably wouldn’t recommend this series to the faint-hearted or much younger readers but then again, if you can handle a bit of heart stopping terror – go ahead, it’s perfect! Silent Saturday is a wonderful start to what I’m certain will be a brilliant trilogy. Try it…. if you dare?

Come back tomorrow where I’ll be reviewing the second book in the series, Demons of Ghent!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0