I should note that this is not a review of the full book, so keep that in mind, as I only made it 20% of the way through before abandoning it.
It is rare that I pick up a book and then not finish it. I will usually push to the end just for the sense of completion, but I could not keep going here.
The last few years I’ve been taking advantage of sales to explore new authors and I’ve found a few new favorites, some I’ve enjoyed but don’t necessarily feel compelled to keep following and a few that I’ve made a point to never investigate again.
Unfortunately the latter is the case here. Mateguas Island feels like a project where someone misread what not to do in creative writing and did all of those things instead of avoiding them.
There are pages and pages of backstory for every character, even to the point that the first meeting between the wife and husband is played out in separate chapters from each character’s perspective. Exposition is lengthy and explicit, the characters thoughts are carefully laid out for the reader in detail, often bracketed by even more exposition. Motivations are not revealed through actions or dialogue, but through the author stating them.
On top of this, all of the characters are unlikable, either shrill and manipulative, or weak and fumbling, or “flawed” in ways that make you kind of hate them. And they are always so very transparent to themselves (through those endless internal monologues) and to everyone else. Maybe the big reveal later is all the characters have telepathy.
In the first 20% of the story, nothing happens. The “precocious” twins, who speak more like pod people than actual children, find a slim locked box. One of them has a vague bad dream. It rains. There is alleged tension in the relationship of the husband and wife, but the characters are so unpleasant I was hoping the mouth to Hell would open and swallow them up, but no such luck.
If the author had started the action a lot sooner I probably would have kept muddling through to see what happens, but after my 20% investment it was easy to close the book and not give a whit.