When Willie arrives in Indian Territory, she knows only one thing: no one can find out who she really is. To escape a home she doesn’t belong in anymore, she assumes the name of a former classmate and accepts a teaching job at the Cherokee Female Seminary.
Nothing prepares her for what she finds there. Her pupils are the daughters of the Cherokee elite—educated and more wealthy than she, and the school is cloaked in mystery. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. Willie’s room is the very room the dead girl slept in. The students say her spirit haunts it.
Willie doesn’t believe in ghosts, but when strange things start happening at the school, she isn’t sure anymore. She’s also not sure what to make of a boy from the nearby boys’ school who has taken an interest in her—his past is cloaked in secrets. Soon, even she has to admit that the revenant may be trying to tell her something. . . .
Any time you can ground something popular (like paranormal romance) in history, it only makes it stronger. Sonia Gensler does this well in The Revenant.
She tells a haunting tale of revenge set at the Cherokee Female Seminary in what was then Indian Territory. Seventeen-year-old Willie lies, cheats and steals her way out of family problems and into a teaching position at a dusty outpost of a school. Except when she gets there, it’s not. It’s a genuine “castle” of learning with strict ideas about propriety and students who range from “full-blooded” Cherokee to wealthy “mixed-blood” socialites–the last things Willie expected.
What’s worse, her room is haunted by a slain student.
The Revenant is an unlikely gothic novel complete with imposing turreted buildings, things that go bump in the night, poltergeist activity and a school full of girls with active imaginations.
Like Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine, Gensler takes advantage of “spiritualism” and its popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Add in her extensive research and gift for lyrical writing and there’s something for everyone in this well-crafted tale.
The only minor drawback in The Revenant is that the plot and big reveal weren’t all that hard to guess. Still, the story’s told well enough and the characters are real enough for readers to easily overlook the inevitable.