Atmospheric, transportive, and often terrifying, The Hacienda was a captivatingly creepy place to visit. I’ve been looking forward to The Hacienda since before its publication. But, true to form for me, I kept putting it off once I had it in my hands, partly because I have such a plethora of books on my shelf calling my name that leads me to constant distraction, and partly due to a slight fear that I wouldn’t love it as much as so many other readers who had already read it and adored it with every fiber of my being. But the stars finally aligned, and a TikTok friend offered to buddy read it with me. While I didn’t adore it as much as some other readers, I did very much enjoy it.
The Hacienda turned out to be far heavier on the horror elements than I was expecting. I came in expecting a gothic novel with touches of horror, but this was, in my opinion, a straight-up horror novel with a gothic setting. And it was a setting that I really loved. Cañas’ decision to set her story in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence made the story feel profoundly unique. Though that setting, we are shown how trauma and grief can not only be generational, but something we experience on a national level. It gave the haunting at the center of the story a unique depth, as the hacienda at its core could almost be representative of the haunted air of a nation recovering from a war.
Our story centers around Beatriz, second wife of Rodolfo and new mistress of Hacienda San Isidro, the mouldering estate at the heart of a prosperous business. Beatriz sees this as the ultimate opportunity for freedom, for both herself and her mother, after the political murder of her father’s murder. This is not a love match, at least on Beatriz’s end. But the hacienda in question is strangely agressive, and obviously terrifying to the young woman. She seeks the help of the Church and that help comes in the form of Padre Andrés, who once called the hacienda home. There is much more to Andrés than meets the eye, and the two partner together and embark on a journey to reclaim the hacienda from whatever, or whoever, has the estate in its thrall.
I thought Beatriz was a totally fine character. She was interesting, at least on the surface, but I never felt a true connection to her. But Andrés is an entirely different matter. I loved him almost immediately and found him a truly fascinating character. But with everything in the novel, from characterization to descriptions of events and locales to even the climax of the plot, I felt a slight disconnect. Everything felt like it stayed surface deep instead of digging deeper. Details felt ephemeral and tended to blur together. While I found this frustrating, it did one thing brilliantly; it caused the entire novel to feel like a gloriously gothic fever dream.
While The Hacienda isn’t a new favorite for me, it was a very atmospheric, enjoyable experience. The setting was lush, the writing was lovely, and the horror elements were incredibly strong. I completely agree with the comparisons to both Mexican Gothic and Rebecca, and would highly recommend The Hacienda to any lover of those novels, or anyone looking for something historical, with a touch of romance, that is heavy on the creep factor.
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