The Riddles of Epsilon
By Christine Morton-Shaw
Jess is not pleased when her parents drag her off to live on the weird little island of Lume. But then she encounters an eerie presence in an abandoned cottage, and her anger turns to fear when it begins to lead her through a series of creepy riddles. As she slowly unravels the mysteries of Lume, she finds the writings of Sebastian, a boy who lived one hundred years ago and to whose life contains unsettling reflections of her own. To her horror, the dangers he unearthed in 1894 now begin to threaten Jess and her family… and if Jess does not unlock the riddles in time, she may lose her mother forever.
I love finding hidden treasures like this book. I wasn’t expecting a lot out of it, a good mystery, riddles and some light reading. It is light reading, and has a strong YA feel to it, but I enjoyed it tremendously. Christine Morton-Shaw created a wonderful world and I love her all the riddles she placed in it. I envy that talent for I’m not the best with riddles as much as I would love to use something similar in my own writing. But what she did do that I have always wanted to and now have a possible structure/aide is how she had the book read in multiple diary entries and chat-room experiences. Set in the first person, through Jess’s eyes, we see what she sees and what she writes down in her diary as she puts together the riddles and clues she found, the mysterious person Epsilon, and her own problem solving skills as she works things out. We also see a lot of her teenage attitude, which can be annoying for some, but really puts an emotional feel into the book.
So the novel surrounds Jess as she moves to this remote island called Lume, away from her friends who has put her in a lot of trouble in the past. It is partly to get her away from them, but also for her mom to explore this large manor she inherited from her own mother. Right from the start, Jess is your typical moody, brooding teen, hating her parents for dragging her out to the middle of nowhere. She has no friends and feels very isolated. Thankfully she still has her computer and internet privileges that she uses to keep in contact with her friends from back home. But even then through the chat-room conversations we see how annoying her friends are and to me at least, am thankful her parents did take her away.
It is during one of her chat-room conversations that Epsilon first appears. But only Jess can see him when he logs on. At that point he is only known as ‘V’, but by probing Jess and poking her, giving her details of her day when she was completely alone and frightening her does she unravel the first of his riddles – that being his name. I’m not going to go through the process of how she discovered it, because well that’s part of the story and I don’t want to ruin it for potential future readers.
From then on, Epsilon warns Jess about her mother, about a prophecy and how if she didn’t solve the riddles in time her mother may be lost forever. At first Jess doesn’t believe him, thinking he is some sort of stalker, and rightfully so, but she notices changes in her mother’s behaviour, of her collecting multiple shells off the beach, painting only one portrait when her job is to paint other people’s portraits. We get a sense that something is not right with her mom, whether she be ‘mad’, or under a spell. Either way Jess begins to listen to Epsilon more and more. It is when she has the dream of a boy, writing about a dream he had about her – a mirrored dream of the two sharing parts of their lives with each other. She discovers the boy is named Sebastian, how he lived in her house over a hundred years ago and was facing the same riddles from Epsilon as she was. We learn his mother’s behaviour mirrored her own mothers. The riddles begin to frighten Jess, but so does the strange similarities between herself and Sebastian, forcing her to continue on instead of dropping the matter and forgetting it like Sebastian did.
I don’t want to spoil anything else, as from here on out, she begins to connect the dots, learn of the story behind Lume, the mythology and legends that turns out not to be quite so myth or legend as one may think. There are dark forces fighting against light, a secretive evil organization on the island to avoid, and several people warning Jess not to trust Epsilon. This novel has everything for a great adventure, full of excitement and some fun fantasy elements as well. It was a surprise how much I really liked the book and I guess it’s no wonder why I finished it in only a couple of weeks.
Like I said, this turned out to be a great hidden treasure. I recommend this book to anyone really, it was so much fun reading and I hope to find others by the author in the future.