The String Diaries

Written by Stephen Lloyd Jones
Review by Bethany Latham

A centuries-old evil stalks Hannah Wilde, an evil that purports to love her, just as it has all the women in her family for generations, with devastating and murderous consequences. And since this evil can assume any human form, Hannah seeks constant validation – not of herself, but that those she loves are really who they appear to be. For the sake of her daughter, Hannah will confront this evil, which has a name to go with its many faces: Jakab.

Using interconnected storylines and the “String Diaries” begun and perpetuated by members of Hannah’s family to help those who come after, this tale of Jakab’s life, Hannah’s parents, and others in Hannah’s family spans centuries. Born in 19th-century Hungary, Jakab is a member of the hosszú életek, the “long-lived,” elite creatures who have the ability, within certain constraints, to heal themselves as well as change their appearance. Jones creates and fleshes out the concept so realistically that I was uncertain, while reading, if it was of his own devising or based upon some Hungarian folk mythology I’d never before encountered. (It appears to be the former, so even more kudos to Jones.) The jumping storylines and settings (present-day Snowdonia, 1970s Oxford, 1800s Budapest) completely engage the reader and allow for the maintenance of nail-biting suspense over the length of the novel, while still allowing a nuanced “show” rather than “tell” unfolding of the story. The characterization is strong and dimensional, the pacing perfect, and the plot threads skilfully woven. The prose is highly visual, allowing for some disturbing mental pictures, but it’s also an engrossing novel which appeals on a number of levels. Be sure to pick this one up – it’s a stand-out in its genre and a great read.