The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne follows Helena as she tries to live a normal life with her husband and two daughters. When she hears that her father has escaped prison and killed two guards, she feels her world come crashing down around her.
Helena’s father kidnapped her mother when she was a teenager and held her captive. Helena had no idea when she was a child how monstrous her father could really be. Now that he’s escaped from prison, anything could happen and everyone is in danger.
Her husband doesn’t know her grisly past and the truth threatens to ruin everything she has built. In order to keep her new family safe and to put her past behind her, she must hunt down her father and bring order back to her now chaotic life.
First, I have to say that this cover is absolutely gorgeous. The cover is what initially drew me into this book, followed quickly by the synopsis. Second, this book is somewhat hard for me to pinpoint. It’s claiming to be a psychological thriller, but I didn’t really get those vibes. It definitely had thriller moments, there’s no doubt about that. The story was incredibly well-written and had an eerie undertone that kept you drawn in. But the book didn’t mess with my mind like most psychological thrillers. Nor did it have any twists that I can pinpoint.
Don’t let this take away from the fact that this book is very enjoyable. It has some pretty strong elements of suspense. One plus is that this book takes place in Michigan. I may be biased, being from northern Michigan and all, but this state is absolutely gorgeous. The four seasons we get and the lush greenery we get in the summer is the perfect landscape for such a story.
“Memories aren’t always about facts. Sometimes they’re about feelings.”
The story jumps from present to past, sometimes from chapter to chapter. This created a very interesting story and some depth to the main character that would otherwise not be there. My issue with this book was that the present and past were not balanced properly. The past part of the book seemed to dominate at times. The suspense would be building up in the story and then there would be a really long chapter about her childhood, allowing the suspense to fizzle out.
I feel like there could have been much more about how she hunts down her father before reaching the climax. It felt like she hardly looked at all during the entire book, which I initially thought was going to be a big part of the story. This story wasn’t a quick-paced thriller, but rather a story about how a young girl grew up in very odd circumstances with a thriller sprinkled in throughout. Honestly, this story would have also worked if it was only written about her growing up in the marshes and her life after going into civilization for the first time.
“Memories can be tricky, especially those from childhood.”
I know, it sounds like I really didn’t like this book, doesn’t it? But that’s not the case at all, I swear! This book works well in many other ways. The chapters about the past are extremely well-written and the vibe of this book have Michigan written all over it. You can definitely tell that the author is from Michigan as well, and knows a great deal about the scenery. She does a great job building a claustrophobic environment using the beautiful landscape of the Upper Peninsula and the secluded life in the marshes.
The thriller part of the story left something to be desired, but the parts about her childhood and growing up with her captive mother and father were very captivating. I would find myself getting frustrated at times when the suspense got cut off by a flashback, but would be quickly sucked back in by the unique circumstances of her childhood. The climax of the book was suspenseful and satisfying.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
So, to get to the point, I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t mind a slower paced thriller. I suppose I went into this book with certain expectations and I’m sure that’s why it let me down a little. The book is incredibly well-written and has an amazing premise. The Michigan backdrop and the marsh setting create an eerily captivating story. If jumping from past to present (with the past being dominant) doesn’t bother you, this book could really work for you. I guess I was just expecting something a bit more on the thriller end, but this was still an incredibly captivating and enjoyable read.