Monday, June 15, 2020

Review: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

The Ancestor
The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni
William Morrow
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 439 pages

About The Ancestor:

"It feels like a fairy tale when Alberta ”Bert” Monte receives a letter addressed to “Countess Alberta Montebianco” at her Hudson Valley, New York, home that claims she’s inherited a noble title, money, and a castle in Italy. While Bert is more than a little skeptical, the mystery of her aristocratic family’s past, and the chance to escape her stressful life for a luxury holiday in Italy, is too good to pass up. 

At first, her inheritance seems like a dream come true: a champagne-drenched trip on a private jet to Turin, Italy; lawyers with lists of artwork and jewels bequeathed to Bert; a helicopter ride to an ancestral castle nestled in the Italian Alps below Mont Blanc; a portrait gallery of ancestors Bert never knew existed; and a cellar of expensive vintage wine for Bert to drink. 

But her ancestry has a dark side, and Bert soon learns that her family history is particularly complicated. As Bert begins to unravel the Montebianco secrets, she begins to realize her true inheritance lies not in a legacy of ancestral treasures, but in her very genes."

So, The Ancestor. I'm genuinely not sure where to start with this one because it really feels like two different books forced into one binding. The Ancestor is one of those books that started out so promising, so atmospheric and compelling, and somehow turned into something, well, something that seems to have gone off the rails a little bit.

Alberta "Bert" Monte receives an unexpected Italian document one day that she soon finds out means that she is the last surviving heir of the Montebianco family line and as such is soon to inherit everything from the Montebiancos, including a castle in a secluded area in Italy. Once she gets to Italy, however, she soon learns that things are a bit more complicated than she expected, and things at this castle are...well, not exactly normal. Once there she meets an odd array of characters including the seemingly sinister housekeeper Greta and groundskeeper Sal, and her mysterious great grandmother Vita. Bert herself is surprisingly firm and inquisitive about finding out about her family's mysterious path, and I was curious to see how she would continue to handle the different obstacle that would undoubtedly be thrown her way and how her character would develop as a result.

Trussoni did a fantastic job of creating a dark and foreboding atmosphere that followed Bert from the United States all the way to the castle in Italy. I was so hooked on exploring what exactly this inheritance entailed for Bert, and there were so many delicious hints at something sinister at play in the Montebianco family. Figuring out what it was and the journey Bert would take to find out was something I was so excited for, and I loved how Trussoni set this entire first half or so of this book up.

So everything sounds good, right? We have a great hook where our protagonist gets to inherit some huge castle (I know I'm jealous), there are some spooky stories about the family's past, the atmosphere is perfecty set up, and things are progressing nicely. ....And then about halfway through things get a little, uh, weird, you could say. My mom read this book before I did, and I remember looking at her after reading a particularly weird climactic point and asking her what on earth I was reading because I just had no idea what genre this book was even supposed to be anymore.

Not only did this book just take a particularly sharp turn into a new direction, but even the choices the characters made felt rough and didn't seem to follow the pattern of character that Trussoni had set up. I won't mention some of the specifics so as not to spoil, but I was incredibly frustrated by how Bert responded to some major things that happened both to her and around her. She had such an odd easy acceptance of things that felt entirely unrealistic, and some of the things that happened were equally mind-boggling.  By the 3/4 mark, I just wanted to finish the book. If I had known what this book was going to be going into it, I might've liked it, but since this wasn't what I wanted or expected at all, I just wasn't interested. It was also pretty boring at various points because there was so much info-dumping about Bert's family and the history of the area and so on. This was exciting at the start, but in the latter half of the book it just grew tiresome.

Overall, I've given The Ancestor 2.5-3 stars. If I were going off the latter half only, it'd probably be closer to 2, but since the beginning was still promising I felt it should be boosted up. I would mainly recommend this to anyone who loves extremely radical plot twists and doesn't mind when things get a bit weird (and I'm someone who usually likes weird!).


  1. I'm so glad I'm not alone with my feelings about this book! You nailed it, that second half was just weird and ridiculous and I was sooo disappointed. I think if she'd at least given us hints of what was to come, she could have tied the two halves together. I just wanted more creepy stuff about the castle!

  2. I just read another book where the author introduced a "weird" plot point and it totally changed my perception of the book. Sounds like I might feel the same way about this one!