Grace A. Johnson
review: all the lost places by amanda dykes
I’ve been hearing absolutely amazing things about Amanda Dykes for years, but when I first read one of her novellas in The Kissing Tree collection, I wasn’t impressed. The “pizzazz” in her writing that everyone lauded never caught my eye.
Then came December. I received an ARC of All the Lost Places in the mail, which I’d requested to read because I am a sucker for anything set in Italy and because I was determined to ferret out what made Dykes so beloved.
(Before I got started with ATLP, I also read a few of her free Christmas short stories and was pretty impressed, but short stories vs a novel? I had to see that for a myself…)
So I cracked open the pages of All the Lost Places (even though it’s a paperback copy, so there was really no “cracking” involved) and was transported into what is truly a masterpiece of a story.
Everyone was right. Amanda Dykes’ writing doesn’t just have “pizzazz”…it has spirit, life, an entire poem hidden in every sentence.
I know there are some people who prefer cut-and-dry writing who wouldn’t enjoy Dykes’ prose, but I am no such person, so I was swimming in the beauty of it all. Dykes made not only the heavenly setting but also the emotion and history and mystery of it all come to life in the most vibrant of colors, and I am simply impressed.
But the most beautiful? THE CHARACTERS. First of all, WE HAD A MALE MC. Y’ALL, THAT WAS AMAZING. I get so tired (if you haven’t noticed) of reading the same ol’ cabron-copy cookie-cutter female, so believe me when I say that Daniel was (1) the absolute best and (2) such a refresher. His character was so intriguing and simply a pleasure to read. He was well-written with an emotional journey, and at the same time, he was an admirable, relatable hero. Just all-around amazing, y’all. I need more male main characters (not just love interests) in Christian historical fiction/romance, please and thank you.
On that note, Sebastian was also a five-star hero, and I honestly could’ve read a whole book from his POV.
As if two phenomenal dudes wasn’t enough for this girl, Dykes gave me two equally wonderful heroines, and I could literally cry. Y’all. Vittoria and Marianna were what this genre, what this world needs, out of female characters these days. They were tender and sweet, headstrong and independent, compassionate and caring, genuine and authentic. I loved them. They weren’t at all like female POV characters—i.e., whiny, cliché, feminist-y, or inauthentic. They were real, and they did a fabulous job of supporting the main men, while also bringing their own flair and flavor to the story.
Plus the secondary characters (especially Massimo) were *chef’s kiss* bella, bella!
So, my only qualm with the entire novel actually has to do with my man Danny-boy. His arc felt incomplete. Like, it was amazing, on the fast-track to character developmental success, until the ending was wrapped up just a wee bit too quickly and his arc loosely knotted up. But otherwise, I can’t complain. This story was too mysterious and dark and profound and inspiring and immersive to have more than one minimal qualm. 😂
And y’all. This technically counts as dual-time, and let me just say...authors are upping their game. These last few dual-time novels I’ve read have been actually good, so unique, with each timeline equally interesting and woven together seamlessly—and this one is no exception! I fell in love with both Daniel’s journey and Sebastian’s life story and devoured every word in both timelines.
Speaking of devouring words...even though the story itself was kinda light and subtle in the faith and spirituality department, the author’s note literally made me tear up. It was...so beautiful and edifying and inspiring and enriching and gorgeous and I just...augh. I can’t. It was by far my favorite author’s note ever, and such a pleasure to read.
So...I did it, y’all. I solved the mystery of why everyone loves Amanda Dykes. And know I love her too.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
about the book
When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the canals of 1807 Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastian Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn't until a woman washes ashore his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastian must make choices that could alter not just his own future, but that of the beloved floating city.
Decades later,Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden in regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastian Trovato.
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about the author
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She's the winner of the 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten title, and the winner of an INSPY award for her debut novel, Whose Waves These Are. She’s also the author of Set the Stars Alight (a Christy Award finalist), Yours is the Night (recipient of the Kipp Award), All the Lost Places (starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Foreword), and three novellas. Find her online at amandadykes.com.
Have you ever read any of Amanda Dykes' books? If so, did you fall in love with her writing too? What are your thoughts on male MCs? Read any good Italy-set (or Venice-set) books recently? Let me know all about it in the comments!
yours in spirit and script,
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