A haunted house, human cruelty, the convergence of time and space: Blood and Brume by Maki Morris has all of the makings of a good ghost story, without excluding the struggles of the living along the way.
Assaulted by one of her mother’s boyfriends, sixteen-year-old Ellie and her friend Sam find her an abandoned house to squat in, at least until she can figure out her next move. Everything seems okay – not great, considering the circumstances, but manageable – until strange and disturbing oddities start happening in Ellie’s temporary hideout. And just when she’s ready to bolt and leave the weird behind for good, two strangers in what she can only assume are steampunk cosplay get-ups show up on the doorstep, claiming to be the house’s owners. By the time Ellie realizes they’re actually ghosts, she’s in too deep and too many lines have already been blurred between the living and the dead. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” has never been a truer phrase as she learns that unfinished business can transcend time and space: to whatever end.
Morris’s strengths as a writer shine through in the way she’s able to convey a sense of urgency to all of the conflicts going on in Blood and Brume, not just the immediate ones surrounding Ellie’s present circumstances as a runaway teen. No one’s issue is more important than another’s, or gets more or less “screen time” throughout the novel. In this way, Morris presents her readers with the chance to become just as invested in Ellie’s plight as the unresolved wrongs carried over from the past. The result is a rich, multi-layered story that grows less and less predictable as the pages turn.
For those seeking a story about unconventional second chances, both cryptic and incredibly blunt messages from the beyond, mysteries layered in suspicion and doubt, and finding strength in others well as within, Blood and Brume packs quite the punch. Readers beware, this might have been written with a YA audience in mind, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily light or easily digested. It gets real, and pretty damn dark during key plot points, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel – just don’t head toward it until you’re sure you can handle it.