After finishing her exams, there is nothing more Clare wants to do than have a relaxing, fun summer in London before beginning her studies at Sussex University in a few months. Then, out of the blue, her mother Frances, a nurse, declares that they are moving to the rural countryside estate of Ravensmere in order to care for the elderly and ailing Mr. Aylward. Once she arrives at Ravensmere, Clare slowly realizes that there is something achingly familiar about the grand old estate and the quaint little village that abuts it, even though she has never been to or even set eyes on the region before.
As she quickly gets to know the residents of the village at the staff at the estate, Clare is confused and a little disturbed by the fact that everyone seems to know who she is. She even begins to doubt her own sanity after experiencing odd visions and is unable to resist visiting the derelict, abandoned China Garden during the night. When she meets the cocky and volatile Mark Winters (called Mark the Bastard by his biker friends), an intense attraction follows and Clare not only begins falling in love with Mark, but with Ravensmere itself. After her mother reveals the fact that their own past is tragically linked to the estate, Clare begins to unravel a great puzzle involving a maze, the China Garden, the noble families of Ravensmere, and a legend dating back to the stone age and beyond.
This was a re-read for me; I think I first read it in grade school, and I remembered enjoying it very much so I decided to pick it up again since I didn’t remember completely what it was about. It was just as good as the first time. I’m not usually into mysteries but Berry did a great job of weaving it together with a sort of dark, romantic, ghostly emotion. There’s a lot of foreshadowing and tragic hints thrown about in the beginning, and by the middle of the book you’ve basically got it figured out. However that didn’t detract from Berry’s haunting story and very delicious romance.
I thought the premise of The China Garden was actually very clever and just mysterious (and a tiny bit scary!) enough to really keep you interested. It’s also plotted quite well–the tension begins to pick up slowly, and then faster as Clare (and the reader) realizes that there is very little time left to crack the mystery and figure out how to save Ravensmere and the people whose lives are so inextricably tied to it. It’s very exciting and tense. I don’t want to give anything away but I thought the climax and the revelation was suitably epic and interesting; again, a very hm… intelligent and ancient idea?
And look at that cover! I think this is the Avon edition, and it perfectly evokes the mysterious and romantic tone. Yeesss.
I really enjoyed this one, and after a bit of searching on the internet it doesn’t seem to be extremely popular or well-known. Too bad, it was a great read. You can buy it on Amazon, and I also found it at my library.
Where did I get this book? I now own it!
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Author Website: http://lizberrybooks.com, where you can also read the first 3 chapters of The China Garden online.