The Hacienda

I have long been a fan of horror and gothic tales, so ever since I first heard of The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas, I was eager to read it. In the end, I waited until early October to dive in; it worked for both Latinx Heritage Month and Spooky Season, and I was in the right mood for it. And luckily, The Hacienda fully delivered.

Summary

After Beatriz’s father is murdered, she and her mother are left with few options. Beatriz ends up marrying a man she hardly knows, Don Rodolfo Solórzano, and moves to his home, Hacienda San Isidro. Located in the isolated valley of Apan in Hidalgo, it’s far away from Beatriz’s mother, and she feels more alone than ever. Even worse, it seems that the hacienda is haunted by a malevolent spirit, the ghost of Rodolfo’s first wife. Beatriz is terrified for her life, but with her new husband away and her sister-in-law distant at best, who can she turn to? Her only hope is an unconventional priest, Andrés, but he has some secrets of his own and may know more than he lets on. As more dark events in the past come out, will Beatriz and Andrés put things to right in time, or will Beatriz die in this house of horrors?

Review

From the first pages of The Hacienda, the lush writing fully pulled me into the story. Isabel Cañas captures the essence of gothic fiction, gently engrossing readers with its dreamlike, hazy setting. Right away, you can feel the chill of the house and empathize with how unsettled Beatriz feels. The prose is descriptive and beautiful, and it perfectly settles the reader into a feeling of fear and isolation.

Often with horror, the lead character will make some baffling choices. In The Hacienda, Beatriz’s backstory and personal goals give her a reason to stay, in spite of the unnerving atmosphere of her new home, and the people in her life are further hindrances. From there, the actions she does take are logical: Find a priest to exorcise this haunted place. Maybe resort to witchcraft to drive out the malevolent spirit. By the time she wants to run away, she has little opportunity to do so.

At its core, The Hacienda is an ominous horror novel, and it provides genuinely terrifying scenes. The fear is palpable, especially at night when the house becomes unbearable. When the temperature drops and ghostly fists pound on Beatriz’s bedroom door, you’re feeling the terror along with her. When she finds a skeleton in the house, you feel sickened and horrified. Then, when things return to normal all of a sudden, you feel as disoriented and confused as Beatriz. Is she losing her mind? Is everyone around her lying? Or is this house indeed as dangerous as it’s starting to feel?

Beatriz is a captivating lead character, though two others also shine here: Padre Andrés and the servant Paloma. Both are allies to Beatriz, but Andrés has greater ability to help throughout her ordeal. He’s a priest, he has some other secret skills, and he has a deeper knowledge both of Hacienda San Isidro and of the Solórzano family. His cousin Paloma is more mistrustful and mercurial early on, but she’s a mostly likable and helpful character.

Most chapters are from Beatriz’s perspective, though some come from Andrés’s point of view, adding extra depth and detail to the novel. Despite the terror and horror happening around them, Beatriz and Andrés can’t help the connection they feel… but how could a romance bloom between them? Not only is the timing terrible (haunted houses are hardly a great setting for love!), they both aren’t exactly available. Indeed, Beatriz is married and Andrés is a priest. Even so, a bit of gothic romance does weave its way in, giving the novel moments of lightness before menacing darkness shrouds the characters once more.

Final Thoughts

The Hacienda delivers exactly what I’d hoped for: Gothic descriptions, real terror in the supernatural haunting, and beautiful writing that is immersive and dreamy. Comparisons to Mexican Gothic and Rebecca are accurate, but even so, the author makes The Hacienda a captivating story that stands on its own. It’s a powerful debut, and I look forward to reading more from Isabel Cañas.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy The Hacienda here – it’s available as a hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
AudienceAdult
GenreHorror; Gothic; Romance
SettingMexico
Number of Pages338
Format I ReadHardcover
Original Publication DateMay 3, 2022

Official Summary

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…

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.

About the Author

Isabel Cañas

Isabel Cañas is a Mexican-American speculative fiction writer. After having lived in Mexico, Scotland, Egypt, and Turkey, among other places, she has settled (for now) in New York City. She holds a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and writes fiction inspired by her research and her heritage.

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