The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2022
Hardcover. 352 pages.
About The Hacienda:
"During the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father was 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 that 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 the 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 save 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."
The Hacienda is a haunting tale of gothic horror that is entrancing and wonderfully atmospheric despite the story itself feeling somewhat familiar and predictable. If you, like me, have seen the comparisons to Rebecca and Mexican Gothic, then you should know that those comparisons are actually very apt and are what made me so excited to read this book. The Hacienda has many incredible elements from the previously mentioned books, from the premise of Beatriz moving into the home of her husband and his previous, mysterious wife, to the gothic haunted house setting of Mexican Gothic, while also adding its own historical setting and context.
In The Hacienda, we follow Beatriz, newly married to Don Rodolfo Solórzano as a way to improve her situation in life and secure a safe future for both herself and her mother, despite murmurings of circumstances around Rodolfo’s previous wife’s mysterious death. Once she arrives at Hacienda San Isidro, however, she discovers that there are some decidedly odd things going on with the hacienda that has left inhabitants scared to even enter… and that the hacienda may just want to kill her.
This has been a difficult book to review because I’m finding it hard to fully convey my feelings around my enjoyment. On the one hand, I loved diving into this spooky, gothic horror with an incredible historical context and cultural background and with mysterious characters you never feel you can fully trust. On the other hand, I found many of the plot beats and “twists” or “reveals” entirely predictable and it ended up feeling like a story that I’ve already read versions of many times. I struggle with this sometimes because I know that if I had read this before reading any other books like it, I would probably really love it and not have as many issues. Unfortunately, because I have, I didn’t find myself enjoying it as much as I‘d hoped to, and I recognize that this is likely a more unique issue.
Beatriz is a woman determined to improve her lot in life after facing some tragedies and setbacks that have left her and her mother living in a difficult situation. Although I never found myself feeling particularly invested in Beatriz’s inner thoughts and feelings, I did fully understand her motivations for marrying Rodolfo and her strong, unwavering dedication to building a better life for herself, and I really respected that. I think Cañas did a good job of creating a character consistent in her motivations and who felt and regularly dealt with intense fear, but also knew she had to work through that and refuse to give up.
The second POV we follow is that of Padre Andres, a young priest who is much more than he seems and offers to help Beatriz attempt to exorcise the hacienda via his skills as a witch. I liked Padre Andres and his own determination to help Beatriz and the hacienda, but I found his character seemed to waver a bit in personality at times, which left me feeling more unsure about him and less connected. Since he was a POV character, we fortunately did get a bit of background on his upbringing and family life, but I found these sections a bit drawn out and hard to get into for some reason.
As previously mentioned, Cañas did an excellent job of creating a delightfully creepy atmosphere that perfectly captured the haunting quality of the hacienda and the fear that runs deep within each character. I could sense that the hacienda was a living, breathing character itself and I absolutely loved that about her writing. I also really liked the historical setting and context of this story and almost wish it had been incorporated even more than it was, or at least contributed a bit than just as a more of a backdrop for the rest of the story.
The pacing is on the slower side which in turn seemed to make this a bit less of a page-turner for me. Something about this book just didn’t quite have the life that I expected and that made me feel so drawn to it, almost as if the plot itself were a bit stale at times. All of the individual elements were there, from the hacienda’s creepy happenings to the mystery around Rodolfo and his previous wife, but it all felt very familiar and almost as if it were just ticking off boxes. As I’ve said, I still enjoyed this book because it had a plot and elements I liked and although I think it was a good book and really well written, it just didn’t end up clicking with me as expected.
Lastly, I was really frustrated by the ending in the sense that it sort of made certain things that happened in the book feel unnecessary and gave me a “what was the point?” feeling. I won’t go into any detail because I don’t want to spoil anything and I’d rather others experience it with a fresh mind. Based upon everything leading up to the ending, I just really expected a bit more from the characters and the story and was instead left feeling a bit unsatisfied.
Overall, I’ve given The Hacienda 3.5 stars! This was a really solid and well-written gothic horror novel that unfortunately just did not click with me in the ways I expected it to. Despite that, I can still appreciate Cañas’ excellent prose and atmospheric setting and would recommend it to anyone who loves the genre and wants to immerse themselves in a wonderfully spooky setting. I will definitely be on the look out for more from Cañas in the future!
*I received a copy of The Hacienda courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*