Howdy, howdy! It’s the last week of May already, so you know what that means! It’s book review time. I went with something a bit more literary than I’m used to, but I wanted to shake things up a bit. When I was browsing NetGalley, The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister caught my eye. So, as usual, I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for giving me access to the novel in exchange for an unbiased review. The novel was due out on May 21st. Now, let’s get to the review.
The Scent Keeper follows Emmeline as she grows up on a remote island with only her father and their mysterious scent-papers to keep her company. Her childhood is filled with fairy tales and the type of fantastical fun that only opening up your senses can get you. However, as she grows, so does her curiosity. After making discoveries her father refuses to explain, life starts changing until she’s finally flung out into the real world with no safety net. Can she adjust to real life? How is she supposed to find out about her origins when her father never told her much? These are just a couple of questions the book explores.
First, I want to talk about the use of the senses in this book because it’s amazing. Most stories tend to lean hard on sight because that’s probably the easiest way to explain the world around you. Not this book. As you can probably guess, it uses the sense of smell to propel us through Emmeline’s world. Her other senses work fine, but her nose is what she’s been taught to follow all her life. She reads scents the way other people read facial expressions. Smells can’t betray her the way other things can. Or that’s what she thinks. But the focus on smells as both deep memory triggers and helpful everyday tools is really neat.
The story itself is weird because it has a tendency to move really slow, then speed up, then keep jumping between slow and fast. I don’t know if that was just because I wasn’t as interested in Emmeline as I was some of the other characters or what, but even the slow parts were nice. I was in love with the story, so the pace didn’t really matter. Then the ending happened and everything fell apart for me. I knew what was going to happen, but not where it would happen. I was hoping for a return to the island for the big finale, but what I got was an abrupt ending that left so much open that it was unsatisfying. I mean, Fisher (the love interest) was waiting for Emmeline to return to the cove (her childhood home after she had left the island) with him. They had plans. Does she just leave him waiting? Does she go back home? Nothing is explained and it reminded me why I avoid straight litfic. Nothing is ever satisfactorily resolved and it’s annoying as all get out.
As far as the writing goes, it is a beautiful and lyrical experience. The description is gorgeous. It makes the focus on scent easy to picture or understand even when I wasn’t sure what some of the things smelled like. The pace is weird but the rhythm of the writing flows nicely.
Ultimately, I’m happy to have had a chance to be exposed to such wonderful writing in The Scent Keeper, but the ending ruined everything for me.
Overall, I gave it 3 out of five stars. What I enjoyed of it, I really enjoyed, but what I didn’t like got the best of me in the end. If you don’t mind a story that just cuts off but has lovely prose, pick it up.