Medieval Minds by R Holland
What would you do if you were offered a free trip to tour a medieval theme park for the week of Spring Break, and later found out you were going to be paid $1,000 dollars?
Victoria (Tori) Ginsen and her best friend Jasmine are given an offer from a beautiful dark stranger named Elizabeth to tour a place called Medieval Minds before it opens to the general public. Upon their completion of the tour they are going to be paid $1000 each. It’s an offer they can’t refuse.
And just like any high school graduates with nothing to lose and nothing to do for Spring Break, they decide to take the offer. For them $1000 each would really help with some bills. But Tori immediately notice something’s not right. From the night the bus arrives to pick them up, to the group of delinquents that gradually fill the bus, and the passing of drugs around, Tori knows this isn’t the normal vacation. Not to mention the dead girl in the back seat. But when they arrive, the life-like jousting tournaments and the look, feel, and smell of the place allow Tori to relax a little as she realizes this place actually exists. Sadly, the day soon turns sour as two more members of their group mysteriously die, and she’s certain that the death at the jousting tournament was real. Tori and the others soon find out that none of them are going home. Ever!
Insistent upon leaving and going home, a young handsome man named Daniel is able to convince her otherwise. Their love blossoms and their main goal is to keep each other safe. Finally she accepts that escaping is impossible, but trying to keep the rest of her group alive may be the biggest challenge of them all.
Score: 3 stars
Plot – 2.5
Characters – 2.5
Writing – 3
Victoria is quite a different protagonist as the book starts out. Burying her grandparents, she comments on the fact that she’s grateful that they died now, before they could rack up any more debt. The is a sense of detachment and callowness as she narrates that I found very refreshing. I didn’t exactly like her as a person, but I did find her take on things quite interesting. Sadly, that unique outlook fades as the book goes on and while her voice doesn’t change, she loses the aspect of her narration that set her apart.
The book is a slasher novel for about two thirds. I’m not a big fan of the slasher genre, but the author certainly doesn’t skimp on the death or gore, so if you are, then it will probably appeal to you. There’s a lot of opportunity for death in the pseudo medieval town that Victoria and her friend Jasmine find themselves in, from burning at the stake to being reduced to jalfrezi by landmine. The scene describing the clean up of that particular event was particularly vivid.
While there is a lot of death, I didn’t really care, because there are too many characters to be invested in. I can only remember a handful of names, and I’m not sure I could tell you much about any of them other than the main few. So I was mostly reading to find out who died in what manner, rather than being immersed in the horror of the situation.
About two thirds of the way in, the book takes on a different feel. I read the first two thirds quite slowly, not bored, but not gripped. I read the last third much quicker – most of it in one sitting. But I didn’t like the content as much. I really liked the ending. The epilogue was great, but it came out of almost nowhere. I would have loved to see the book progress from the slasher origins, to that plot, but it’s only really in the last couple of chapters that the direction of Victoria’s character is revealed.
One of Victoria’s companions in the Medieval Minds “attraction” is a boy named Daniel. Up until one point, Victoria thinks he’s cute, but he irritates her. Then he saves her life and suddenly things hot up. I found the romance moved too fast. She hated him one day, and the next he was the most important person to her. It would have been more believable if they’d had more interaction and the build-up was smoother, or if there had simply been an unstated understanding that they were probably doomed anyway, so might as well take some pleasure in each other. I found the second romance in the book completely unbelievable. Grief is resolved far, far too quickly and it almost feels like love is a result of sex. (I’m trying not to spoiler anything, so apologies if this is a little cryptic.) The last part of the book moves very quickly, jumping though months and even years.
The writing was a little basic in places. It was free from typos and grammar issues, but full of caps-lock emphasis and multiple punctuation. I think if it had been tighter, and the pacing and focus had been stronger earlier on, I would have enjoyed the first two-thirds much more than I did. I don’t think the last third is something I’d enjoy without major editing. It just felt rushed and more than a bit silly. Victoria seemed to forget where she was and what had happened in the earlier part of the book thanks to her lover’s strong, warm arms. I’m still not sure what the motivation for the place is, or why Eliza, who has so much power and control in the place doesn’t just take over. This is a fake kingdom, surrounded by mines. I’m not sure who is going to object if the rules of patriarchy are broken.
Overall, I liked many of the ideas in the book. There’s no shortage of horror, both in terms of physical deaths and also the dark pasts of the victims. The setting was an interesting choice, and the protagonist had an interesting outlook, at least early on. There’s plenty enjoy about this book if you’re after a grisly slasher. I just wish there had been a bit more in the last section on how and why everything worked, Eliza’s motivations and Victoria’s transformation, rather than what is actually depicted.
You can buy Medieval Minds on Amazon.