review

Review: The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Summary: In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost. But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined. When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano? Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her.

Genre: horror, historical fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve been anxiously waiting The Hacienda for a few months now, and when it came up as an option for Book of the Month, I didn’t hesitate. It has everything I want in a story: a haunted house, a hot priest, witchcraft, gothic horror vibes, oh and it’s essentially a retelling of Rebecca in 19th-century Mexico. What’s not to love?

I love that gothic horror is making such a big comeback in literature, because it’s truly a unique genre. These stories aren’t just about some spooky jumpscares or dark twists. There are no boundaries or lines that these authors won’t cross, and they generally depict a dark side of human nature and deal with larger socioeconomic issues as well. This happens in The Hacienda, where issues like race and class are almost the driving points of any conflicts the characters come across. Beatriz feels that she must accept the proposal from her future husband to regain her status. She knows that due to her family’s background, her father’s choices during the Mexican War of Independence, and even her skin tone compared to those around her, she will continue to be looked down upon until or unless she can save herself.

These are all incredibly strong, in-depth issues, but throw on top of all of that a haunted house, a silent husband with a first wife dead under mysterious circumstances, a romance subplot with a priest who also dabbles in witchcraft, and you’re in for the pure magic that is The Hacienda. This might seem like an overwhelming amount of subplots to carry into one story, but Cañas executes it perfectly.

Admittedly, I felt that the big reveal was not altogether surprising. However, I can also safely say that I didn’t predict it, because I was so wrapped up in everything else that was happening in the story. Usually with mysteries of any kind, I get bored and try to solve the case, but that didn’t happen here. I felt like there was so much more to this story than the “whodunit” that it was never my main focus. This was such an atmospheric, dark read, and I loved every second of it.

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