Review: A Stray, Astray
With COVID-19 sweeping the Earth, I’ve started a series reviewing novels about plagues. First on the list was The Immortals by Tracy Hickman. Next, I review a novella by E. H. Night entitled A Stray, Astray.
I previously reviewed The Four Before Me and MIND, also by Night. TFBM was a good thriller and MIND was well-written, but not so much my cup of tea since it was too abstract (though you may enjoy it). I appreciate that everything she’s done so far is so vastly different despite falling roughly under the horror umbrella.
The story surrounds an English housekeeper named Helen and all of the terrible things that happen to her during the Bubonic Plague’s run through London in the 1600s. At first her life is kinda decent despite being an orphaned housekeeper, but when she takes on a new employer, things go from bad to worse. Her downward spiral that just doesn’t let up reminds me of Hope’s tragic chain of events from Piers Anthony’s Refugee (totally different genre, but similar mood).
At first the Bubonic Plague is but a small mention in the backdrop. I was a bit miffed in the beginning, thinking “Bring on the death and disease! This feels like Pride and Prejudice or Outlander minus the time travel with all this talk of romance and classism.” I actually say that jokingly because it’s good to read outside your comfort zone. Now when the plague subplot becomes the main plot, it hits HARD! You really feel for Helen and the horrible things she goes through. You’re going to be flipping those pages fast after the halfway mark.
For a self-published book, the editing is superb. I didn’t find any errors to my knowledge, and I remember finding a few in her follow-up, TFBM.
As for what I didn’t like… It’s not much.
It’s Night’s first book so it’s not as refined as TFBM. There seems to be a lot more passion in this writing however. It’s in third person omniscient which is really hard to pull off. Sometimes paragraph to paragraph, we’re hopping between heads, seeing what this person or that person is thinking and it’s really disorienting. It also made it really hard to figure out who the main protagonist is at the start. There was so much emphasis on Margaret in the beginning, I thought it would be about her, but I still liked learning her backstory.
The only other issue I took was with some parts of the story being very rushed, especially the last 20%. That really could have been expanded.
I can’t comment on the authenticity of the historical matter since I’m nowhere near an expert on the Bubonic Plague, but everything seems legit.
As for the book cover, it doesn’t try to do anything fancy and that’s cool. It’s basic and to the point: two hands holding a rat. It gets the point of the Bubonic Plague across real quick. The font gets across the point that it’s in an antiquated time period (in this case, the 1600s).
I recommend this story if you’re in the mood for a tragic period romance revenge story.