Owl Manor: The Dawning (Owl Manor: Book 1) by Zita Harrison

Publisher: Zealous Arts Publishing

Date of publication: October 15th, 2018

Genre: Gothic, Horror

Series: Owl Manor

Owl Manor: The Dawning—Book 1

Owl Manor: Abigail—Book 2

Owl Manor: the Final Stroke—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks | Alibris | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

A tale of unspeakable murder, a doomed alliance, and retribution from the beyond
Sometimes the tide sweeps us into a fog where dark forces are at work…suddenly good and evil become blurred. Powerless and defenseless, we swim toward it, and wonder if we’re going mad.

Eva is born in the wrong era. In 1800s America, women are required to obey their husbands without question and to submit to their presumed superiority. But Eva wants more. Willful and ambitious, she considers herself equal to men. But the times are unrelenting, and it is her curse to remain unheard.

Rafe is a misogynist. Born of a demented mother who shattered his childhood and family, he is forever tormented by a scathing mistrust of women.

The tide brings them together at Owl Manor, a place shrouded in darkness, forsaken by the sun. A place where owls breathe in the very fabric of the walls, and shadows wander the passages. Where good and evil blur.

Will Eva make the right choice?

Owl Manor – the Dawning, the first in a trilogy of Gothic suspense novels, is inspired by authors such as Daphne du Maurier (Jamaica Inn), Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Shadow of the Wind), Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House).


First Line:

The owl appeared from nowhere, its ivory wings billowing like a ghostly cloak against the dusky sky.

Owl Manor: The Dawning by Zita Harrison

Horror, mainly the gothic subgenre, is something that I tend to stay away from when reading for pleasure and reading for reviews. I can get easily unnerved by what I am reading, and with my husband traveling 2-3 days a week, I have learned to stay away from those genres. But with him being home (new job=more at home time), I decided to take a chance and read Owl Manor. I am glad that I did because this book was incredibly creepy and very heartbreaking at the same time.

Owl Manor: The Dawning is book 1 in the Owl Manor series. This is the first book in the series, so there will be no gentle suggestions about reading the previous books.

Owl Manor: The Dawning had exciting storylines. There was Eva’s storyline. Raised by her aunt and uncle, Eva is a headstrong, intelligent young woman determined to make it in a man’s world. But then she gets pregnant, is forced to marry a man beneath her station, and is turned bitter by these events. But, Eva is a dutiful wife and mother who follows her husband to Denver (in Kansas territory) during the gold rush. In Denver, she finds mind-numbing poverty. After her husband becomes ill from working in the mines, Eva is forced to find employment. She is offered a job as a maid at Owl Manor, a mansion decorated with owls in the Rocky Mountains. What Eva finds at Owl Manor is a home and a companion with its mysterious owner.

The second storyline is about Rafe. Rafe is a wealthy Englishman who is damaged. His deranged mother abused him, and he was also forced to witness his father being humiliated by his mother. After his mother leaves Rafe and his father, Rafe is dealt the blow of finding his father after committing suicide. Then, Rafe vowed to kill any woman who was a harlot (aka a prostitute). He thinks that by killing them, he is doing the world a favor. Moving from London to the States for school, Rafe settles in Morganton, NC, and continues his killing spree. He then moves to Denver and builds a mansion in the mountains. Rafe also continues killing. But, this time, something mystical happened, and owls started attacking Rafe whenever he left the house. Soon housebound and covered with scars, Rafe starts having manic moments where he destroys his study and bedroom. That stops when he meets Eva. Taken with Eva, Rafe can forget the horror of his past and suppress his urges to kill. But that only lasts a little while before Rafe has the desire to kill again. Everything comes to a head when Eva discovers Rafe’s secret. What will happen to Eva? What will happen to Rafe? Will his secret be kept at Eva’s expense, or will something terrible happen?

I wouldn’t say I liked Eva for most of the book. I don’t know if the author intended the reader to dislike her, but I did. Eva was very unpleasant until she went to Owl Manor. She was an inattentive mother who discussed why she didn’t want children in front of Abigail (yes, that led to issues). Eva blamed her husband for her financial straights, yet she did nothing (except beg and consider prostitution) until she was offered a job at Owl Manor. But, when she got to Owl Manor, there was a gradual change in her attitude towards life and her family. Her attitude toward life improved, but it worsened for her family. Those scenes where she visited her sick husband were tough to read. Even when she was elevated to companion/mistress to Rafe, I was still “meh” about her. But it wasn’t until the very end of the book that I started to feel bad for her. She had gotten herself and her family into a situation that would be impossible to escape. I wasn’t surprised at what happened to her at the end.

I felt terrible for Rafe, but I wouldn’t say I liked his actions. He was shaped by what his mother did and his father’s inaction. It was a classic case of nature vs. nurture, with nature winning this round. I firmly believe that if he had been treated better by his mother, he wouldn’t have gone down the path he did. I did find his reaction to Eva a little heartbreaking. In those scenes, you could see who he could have become if he hadn’t been abused or witnessed everything he did.

I found the use of the owls in Owl Manor very creepy. It unsettled me a little when the author explained that souls used owls to fly to the Underworld. I got chills whenever there was a scene where owls were involved. They were hanging out on the house, waiting for Rafe to come out, and then would attack him, sending chills through me.

The horror angle was well written. The author was able to scare the heck out of me by insinuating things. A drape that moved or a reflection in the glass. I got goosebumps just reading those passages!!

The end of Owl Manor was a mess. I don’t mean a mess writing-wise (nope, the author was spot on with that), but a mess with everything that happened. Also, add that what happened to Rafe at the end was anti-climactic. I was left shaken by what happened and looking forward to reading book 2!!

I would recommend Owl Manor: The Dawning to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and very mild, non-graphic, sexual situations/scenes.


If you liked Owl Manor: The Dawning, you will enjoy these books.

4 thoughts on “Owl Manor: The Dawning (Owl Manor: Book 1) by Zita Harrison”

  1. Yay for your husband being home more! Even with my hubs home almost every night I am still a chicken when it comes to a lot of horror. Great review, though!

    1. Thanks!! He gets a kick out of me reading horror book and then staying up that night because I’m scared….lol.

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