Medusa's Web by Tim Powers

9/10 Powers deserves his place at the top of fantasy authors today.

"In the wake of their Aunt Amity’s suicide, Scott and Madeline Madden are summoned to Caveat, the eerie, decaying mansion in the Hollywood hills in which they were raised. But their decadent and reclusive cousins, the malicious wheelchair-bound Claimayne and his sister, Ariel, do not welcome Scott and Madeline’s return to the childhood home they once shared…

Decorated by bits salvaged from old hotels and movie sets, Caveat hides a dark family secret that stretches back to the golden days of Rudolph Valentino and the silent film stars…

As Madeline falls more completely under Caveat’s spell, Scott discovers that to protect her, he must unravel the mystery of the Madden family’s past and finally free them..."

This is yet another well constructed fantasy novel from Tim Powers that manages to combine many fantasy elements: the supernatural, horror and time travel. I loved all the nods to the bygone movie age, and the house of Caveat is equally intriguing and foreboding. Powers has kept it straightforward in that his novel is not clogged up with unnecessary exposition and characters. The haunted house element could have led to cliché, but thanks to a few expertly crafted twists including an ancient and corrupt cult, an eccentric aunt and lots of hallucinatory experiences, this is another creative and original story.

Some of the time travel jolts earlier on, but this is in fact a clever device so that you feel the characters dislocation and confusion (at least I hope that was the intent!).

The story concerns itself more with mystery and intrigue than out and out horror, but I really enjoyed reading as Scott and Madeline unravel more layers of Caveat's history. Fans of Powers will be thrilled. He is definitely on top of his game for this one. My only criticism is it could have been trimmed down a little here and there, but this is once again proof that Powers deserves his place at the top of fantasy authors today.

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