Book Review

The Hacienda

The Hacienda

  • Author: Isabel Cañas
  • Genre: Horror
  • Publication Date: May 3, 2022
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio

Rating: 4 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: death of a parent, violence, racism, blood, mention of rape, murder

Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in this debut supernatural suspense novel, set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutches…

In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost.

But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.

When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?

Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her.

Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness.

Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.

At the start of this year, I promised myself that I’d try to branch out into different genres than the ones I normally stick to. Since horror is one of the genres I tend to shy away from, I figured it might be time to finally conquer my fears. This one is compared to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, which I enjoyed since it was creepy without outright crossing the boundary into terrifying, so I decided to give it a shot. 

The audiobook narration in this story is on point. Victoria Villarreal as Beatriz, and Lee Osorio as Padre Andrés were fantastic, slowly building up the gothic tension in the story, and developing believable characters and relationships throughout. I couldn’t help but get pulled into the story, even as it did get a little scary.

This is more than simply a haunted house story. Since it takes place in the early 19th century, it also explores some of the political situation of the times, the social tension between the castes, the prejudice that was firmly in place between the lighter-skinned Mexicans of European descent and the darker-skinned Mexicans who were of Indigenous or biracial descent, as well as the social elements of the Indigenous culture and their beliefs. 

Andrés was a fascinating character, coming from a line of Indigenous witches, and being trained in the practices by his grandmother. However, he was also devoted to the church, and it put him in a difficult position. He faces racial discrimination, as Indigenous people were viewed as less capable than people of European descent. In addition, while we view the Inquisition as something left back in the 15th and 16th century, it was still active in the 19th century. Andrés was at risk of being exposed if anyone were to find out about his closely held secret, although it did allow him to effectively care for the Indigenous people of the villages. 

Beatriz was another intriguing character. She isn’t a high-class woman of privilege, but rather a woman who watched her father get executed for being on the wrong side of the Mexican Revolution. After his death, she and her mother were plunged into poverty and forced to rely on the begrudging kindness of a relative, but it wasn’t the gift it appeared to be. She was constantly put down for her dark skin, and made to feel as though she wouldn’t be able to find a good husband. So when she did finally catch the eye of an eligible suitor who seemed too good to be true, she jumped at the chance, only to find herself in an even worse situation.

The connection between Beatriz and Andrés was magnetic. I loved how these two interacted, and the tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going to happen next, but I couldn’t stop reading. At the heart of the story is another mystery, and it kept me up late at night, biting my nails and too nervous to go to sleep. If you’re a wimp like me, this one might toe the line of the scary side, but it’s a great story and the scary parts don’t overshadow the plot of the book. It’s fantastic and I loved how Cañas breathed new life into a classic with the addition of Mexican history and culture.

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