Book #1 Duality series
Published by Sara Ennis (1st June 2021)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book via Booksirens, in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 3.5
When Peter’s daughter, Olivia, was kidnapped over a year ago, he left his illustrious career as a journalist in order to devote all his time to finding her. Now, he spends his days and his fortune helping other parents who’s children have gone missing, still holding out hope that one day he will find his own daughter, alive and well.
Twins Angel and Bud have grown up learning how to make do. They fend for themselves most of the time, and this weekend is no different. With their father in prison and their mother skipping out with a friend for a few days, they’re looking forward to having the trailer to themselves. Until they’re kidnapped and awaken to find themselves in a strange room, soon they learn that they’re in the Dollhouse, and they are no longer fourteen year old twins, they’re now Boy Doll and Girl doll. Finding themselves in this bizarre situation hasn’t dimmed their hope that they will eventually escape and find themselves free of this nightmare.
All of this is orchestrated by Alfred. Alfred has an insatiable need to right the wrongs from his past, and he needs living dolls to do so. Re-creating old photos helps to do this. The thing is…once the photo album has been fully re-created, what will happen to the Dolls?
I came across this one while browsing Booksiren’s catalogue and the cover caught my eye, quickly followed by the synopsis. This came across as something slightly more unique in the thriller/suspense/crime genre and I was keen to give it a go. I nearly requested all three books at the same time, and I’m really glad that I didn’t because I never would have gotten them read in time. That’s not to say that this story was bad, just that there was a very slow, building pacing to the book that I feel was intentional in order to build that sure fire feeling of suspense and dread. At times though, the story did lag a bit and sometimes things felt a little repetitive, but again, I almost feel like this was intentional as I could feel the ticking down of the clock on the possibility that some or all of these Dolls would make it out alive.
The story is told through alternating POVs. Mostly from Angel, one of the twins who finds themselves a new inhabitant of Alfred’s dollhouse. The others are from Peter Baden, the father of Olivia, another missing teenager, and a few scattered chapters from Jennifer (Alfred’s accomplice), Edward (a guidance counselor at a school), and I think maybe one of two from Alfred himself. I was most interested in Angel’s POV for obvious reasons, this is where the story is happening, where Peter’s POV was more about the frantic drive to find the missing children, while also engaging in a fashion, it just didn’t interest me as much, though I do feel that it helped to add a layer of suspense because I was so desperate to get back to the Dollhouse and see what crazy thing was happening now. I didn’t entirely understand the point of Edward’s POV, but as the story progresses it soon made sense as to how it all ties in together. As said above, the pacing is slow, but it feels intentional and I guess in a way, it did kind of work for the story. My anticipation was ramping up as I got closer to the end because I just didn’t know how things were going to go, and once the reveals started happening and things started moving, they really picked up and just flew. Though even through this higher paced part of the story, things still moved a bit too slow for my building anxiety, whether this is a stroke of genius or detriment though, I’m still not sure.
The characters were written well enough, and I found Alfred to be terrifying in his insanity. The feeling of unpredictability that his character had was so well defined and shown that I really felt a small level of anxiety whenever he got page time because you just did not know what he was going to do. This was incredibly well done and worked so well for the story as it can be difficult to write a truly fear inducing character. Angel and Bud were written well enough, but at times Angel felt rather two dimensional and a little flat. Peter was a good addition to the cast and I think it was a good idea to show the story from both sides – the kidnapped, and the searching. The other characters we encountered were okay, but nothing to write home about.
The events that happen in the Dollhouse, at times, were shocking in their execution, and this is where I will put some trigger warnings – Abduction, Child Abduction, Child Abuse, Child Torture, Graphic Violence of a sort. Most of the time there wasn’t a whole lot happening other than some humiliation or the teenagers being forced into situations that were, while not quite abusive, still incredibly uncomfortable and at times confronting. I like that Ennis did not shy away from the horrors that are possible with the kidnapping of minors and while she didn’t glorify it, she still made it seem real and believable to a point.
I don’t want to go into too much detail with anything because I feel like this is a story better read with only what the synopsis gives you. It did end up being different from anything else that I’ve read in these genres and I did enjoy it even if it did feel like it took me a bit to get through. I’m definitely planning on continuing with the series because I’m curious to see what happens and where the story might lead. This story is concluded by the end of this book, so there’s not really any cliffhangers so to speak, but I believe the story does follow one (possibly more) of the characters after these events.