Last Updated on February 11, 2024
Gemma Amor puts a new spin on the familiar haunted house trope with Six Rooms. The novel takes place at Sunshire Chateau, an enormous, labyrinthine mansion sitting atop a hill in New York state, replete with secret passages and a mysterious past. Rumored to be haunted, the estate offers the occasional tour to brave (or perhaps foolish) groups of visitors.
Six Rooms opens with one such tour, featuring a hodgepodge of nosy neighbors and unsuspecting tourists. Sunshire Chateau’s unnamed tour guide is imposing and mercurial, displaying abrupt flashes of anger that show no mercy toward uncompliant guests. The tour guide keeps everyone on their toes, although not necessarily on their best behavior, with his sudden alternations between scripted history and vulgar outbursts.
The Sunshire Chateau also employs a book antiquarian devoted to the meticulous study and preservation of thousands of historic and one-of-a-kind volumes contained in the sprawling mansion. Although he would rather focus on his work, the so-called “bookie” experiences much more than he bargained for in accepting this position at the Sunshire.
As implied by its title, Six Rooms is structured around the exploration of six rooms inside the Sunshire Chateau. Each room leads to a ghostly encounter facilitated through a household object that contains some form of supernatural energy. Each of these encounters involves a corresponding flashback sequence featuring the Sunshire Chateau’s late owner, Charles Lester III, revealing more details of his checkered past.
The plot descends further into darkness as we explore the six rooms. This progression feels akin to visiting each successive Circle of Hell in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. Greater wickedness is revealed at every level, and by the end Charles Lester III seems well versed in each of the deadly sins enumerated by Dante.
Beyond Dante, there is also a clear influence from Edgar Allan Poe which only grows over the course of the book. Gemma Amor explores Poe’s themes of shame, loneliness, and death but with an unexpected and delightfully satisfying feminist twist.
I also enjoyed how Gemma Amor ties the supernatural elements of Six Rooms back to the first law of thermodynamics, i.e., the conversation of energy. Although energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it can be converted among many forms. In Six Rooms, Amor extends this principle to the supernatural, and it works to great effect.
Gemma Amor’s writing is crisp, vibrant, and polished. Amor always has a way of pulling me immediately into a story and keeping me glued to the pages till the very end, and Six Rooms is no exception.
Gemma Amor never disappoints; I am delighted to recommend Six Rooms as one of my favorite haunted house horrors.