Reviewed by Amy Spahn
Worlds Within Worlds was one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read. The story of Prunella Smith continues in The Locksmith’s Secret, and while not as unique as the first book, this novel adds a new depth of Ella’s character while exploring themes of trauma, womanhood, and the need to confront evil.
While reading Worlds Within Worlds will help readers to understand this book (and I highly recommend it), The Locksmith’s Secret can be read on its own. You’ll still enjoy the rich tapestry of interconnecting narratives weaving together to form a multifaceted whole. This time the fantasy element comes in the form of a steampunk novel Ella is writing. We also explore her past as a stripper, her past lives, and the mysterious background of her boyfriend, Jamie, who might be too good to be true.
A solid follow-up to an exceptional novel.
Reviewed by Charles Ray
Editor-Author Prunella Smith seems to be getting her life back together. She feels that things are going well with her boyfriend, Jamie, until the death of his older brother in England draws him back home and into the clutches of a demanding, manipulative mother. While coping with this unexpected separation, Prunella is drawn into writing a steampunk novel about Nell, an intrepid investigative reporter on the trail of a vicious killer who also happens to be an esteemed member of the upper class, and enmeshed in the ‘dream’ life of Daniela, a young woman about to become a nun, who is caught between trying to get away from her abusive past and the decidedly earthly feelings she has for the convent gardener. While all this is happening, Prunella is also experiencing waking dreams about a mysterious locksmith who seems to hold the key to everything she needs to understand to get her world back into balance.
The Locksmith’s Secret by Tahlia Newland is, to use a word coined by Prunella, a multi-genre story that combines all the best traits of sci-fi, thriller, steampunk, and a few other genres in a tale that grabs your imagination in a vice-like grip and refuses to let go until you breathlessly reach the last page. This is an exploration of the mind that takes up where the author’s World Within Worlds left off, but stands on its own as a story that will make you question everything you thought you knew about the universe. Most importantly, though, it will entertain you in the way that well-told stories are meant to entertain.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
Reviewed by Mary Maddox
A Rich Narrative Tapestry
By Dream Beast VINE VOICE on April 8, 2016
In The Locksmith’s Secret, Tahlia Newland has woven several narratives into a complex story about the joys and pitfalls of love and the enduring power of the imagination.
Writer Prunella Smith, whom readers may remember from Newland’s last book, Worlds Within Worlds, has found love with Jamie Claypole, an English transplant to Australia. The two are happy together, but Ella knows little about Jamie’s past. The gaps in her knowledge become apparent when Jamie is summoned home after his brother’s sudden death. All at once he becomes secretive about his family and where they live and how long he intends to stay with them.
The other narratives reiterate in various ways the problem Ella faces: whether to pursue Jamie and uncover his secrets or to reclaim the solitude she lost when he came to live with her.
Memories of unhappy past experience with a lover who abandoned her overshadow Ella’s hope for happiness with Jamie. Ella had been a ballerina with a promising career until a back injury forced her to give up ballet. Her lover, who was also her onstage partner, promptly discarded her once they could no longer dance together.
A Buddhist, Ella mediates regularly, and during meditation she’s transported into the world of Daniela, an Italian nun. On the brink of taking her final vows, Daniela finds herself attracted to the man who tends the nunnery’s garden. Like Ella, she faces an unexpected choice about the direction her life will take.
In addition, Ella has a recurring dream featuring a locksmith who may or may not be Jamie and who holds the secret to unlocking doors into countless other worlds, a metaphor for the creative and spiritual freedom that she seeks. She pursues the locksmith, but he seems always just out of reach.
Although troubled by Jamie’s secretiveness, Ella keeps writing fiction. Woven into The Lockman’s Secret is a steampunk novel that has taken hold of her imagination. The chapters appear as she writes them, and the story of intrepid reporter Nell and her efforts to uncover the villainy of Lord Burnett generates as much suspense as the main narrative. Like Ella, Nell values her independence and strives to prove her worth in the professional world. She worries that marriage to her employer’s son will mean the end of her career.
Newland interweaves all of these threads with consummate skill. Not once do they get tangled. Not once does the suspense flag, which is especially impressive in a contemplative novel like The Locksmith’s Secret. The credit goes to Newland’s mastery of narrative structure, to her concise and transparent prose that is eloquent without ever drawing attention to itself, and to her wonderfully varied and complex characters.
The worlds of Prunella Smith have a clarity and power that you won’t soon forget.
Reviewed by Simon Townley
Tahlia Newland writes with beautiful simplicity – making this book a joy to read. Never do you feel lost, or wondering who is who or what is going in. Which is quite an achievement – because there are at least four completely separate stories in here, interwoven yet happening in different times, places and even realities.
The core story is set in our world, our times and is a good old-fashioned romance – with twists for sure and interesting interplay between cultures and value systems. It revolves around a man and a woman making choices about where and how to live their lives, who to share them with, and what can and should be compromised. If you love a place and you love a person and the two don’t necessarily mesh – how hard is it to choose? It’s a dilemma many of us have faced or will face at some point in our lives.
The other stories possess interesting parallels to the main tale – for example, the medieval nun wondering whether to stay in her order, or forsake it for the love of the local gardener. She too has to choose between one life and another and never does Newland make the choices look or feel easy.
The interweaving of these stories is accomplished with great skill and even humour. I’m sure there’s much more to come from these characters, and l look forward to reading more of the series.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
Reviewed by Pete Trewin
This was an interesting book for me. Well-written and pacy, I read it at a fair lick yet I wasn’t always sure exactly what was going on. The core story is a classic romance. The main character, Australian author Prunella Smith, has an English boyfriend. Things are going well; he is kind and attentive and the sex is great. Then he is called home when his brother dies to sort out the ancestral home and deal with a difficult, domineering mother. The question is, will he come back?
So far, so good. But three other stories, spread over time and other worlds, are inter-woven with the main plot. Prunella is writing a steampunk novel about Nell, a reporter investigating murders in a Victorian Australian city. Daniela, a novice nun in medieval times, is torn between her ambition to escape an abusive past and become a nun and her attraction for the convent gardener. Prunella is a Buddhist and, during her meditations, she has waking dreams in which she wanders through an empty city in search of a mysterious locksmith, who she glimpses but cannot reach. These dreams are quite disturbing, almost Freudian.
Despite this complexity, all the stories inter-weave and work with each other to create a satisfying novel.
Personally, I would have liked the characters in the main story to be playing for higher stakes but then that’s probably just me.
This book will appeal to fans of steampunk, romance, magic realism and fantasy. That’s a few genres to be going on with!