The premier book in Yasemin Galenorn’s Whisper Hollow urban fantasy series, Autumn Thorns relates the story of Kerris Fellwater’s homecoming to the openly supernatural town of Whisper Hollow and her role as Spirit Shaman for the town’s dead and recently deceased. Autumn Thorns also contains elements of mystery and suspense as the reader follows Kerris as she unravels the circumstances around the decade’s old disappearance of her parents.
Fifteen years ago, I ran away from Whisper Hollow, Washington, a small town on Crescent Lake in the Olympic Peninsula. But truth is, if you were born here, you can never really leave. I’m Kerris Fellwater, and when I returned, I inherited my grandmother’s house—and her gift. As a spirit shaman, it’s my responsibility to drive the dead back to their graves, because around Whisper Hollow, people—and secrets—don’t always stay buried.
When I was little, I was told my mother ran off. But now it looks like she was murdered. With the help of my mysterious neighbor Bryan, we begin to unravel the mystery of her disappearance, and in doing so, unearth a dark force seeking to bury Whisper Hollow. Now I must work with the dead, rather than against them, because our enemy will do whatever she can to destroy the town, and she means to start with me.
Yasmine Galenorn is an established author and I have always been wowed by her commitment to the mythos and world-building she brings to each new novel. In Autumn Thorns, Whisper Hollow is a town steeped in mythology (Irish and Russian), Shamanism, and elements of Pagan spiritualism*. Galenorn treats each with respect and writes with a great deal of knowledge, which is an important aspect of this story. Whisper Hollow and its inhabitants are so ruled by mythological, supernatural and spiritual forces that a simple name-dropping of Irish gods or Shaministic tradition would have created a very shallow book. Instead, and because of Galenorn’s knowledge and respect, Autumn Thorns is multi-faceted and deep, its world-building rich and easy to become immersed in.
There are a ton of characters in Autumn Thorns. Kerris and her neighbour (or maybe more!) Bryan are the key players, and their relationship and dynamic is well thought out and genuine. Other characters, such as Ellia, Oriel, Ivy and Peggin, make a great supporting cast with their own secrets and quirks. Unlike some novels in which the supporting characters are just there to humanize the main character, each of these ladies have their own roles that are integral to Autumn Thorns and the overall story arc of the Whisper Hollow series (Do we know this for a fact?). Then there are the ghosts and other supernatural beings of Whisper Hollow, most of whom play roles just as important as Kerris’ supporting cast. They each have their own history and part to play in the intricate tapestry that is essential to the characters of Autumn Thorns.
While an excellent read, Autumn Thorns suffers a little because it is the beginning of the Whisper Hollow series. The first novel in any new series is responsible for the introduction of characters, backstory, world-building and the story arc that will play out through multiple books; and there were times I felt overwhelmed by this introduction of the characters and information. I found I had to stop, flip back a couple of pages searching for why a new character had suddenly become important, only to find that they had not yet been introduced.
If you enjoy Urban Fantasy with a smart mythos, a splash of romance and a well woven mystery, you should absolutely pick up Autumn Thorns.
*I’m not an expert on theology or spiritualism. I tried to get particular phasing correct. Any offense taken from the words used is not intentional.