Okay, get ready for some serious gushing because I loved this book. There I gave it away in the first line of this review, but seriously, it was so good! Once I got in to the world which had been created, it just kept on drawing me down even further. This was one of those books where I actually sat and hoped my train would be late to give myself some more reading time!
The basic premise is that Billy Harrow, a curator at a London museum, accidentally ends up in the middle of a supernatural conflict with the adherents of the squid God (Kraken) and is slowly drawn in to the magical underbelly of London. And whilst I suck at writing snappy summaries of books, I don’t think that gives too much away about story as a whole! I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone, the twists which the author plants are just to clever to spoil!
I actually started this book at the beginning of the year, read about ten chapters of it and then got distracted by reading other things. Major mistake. Although it takes a good few chapters to get in to the nitty gritty swing of the story, once it does get there it doesn’t let you go. The layers of narrative in this book astound me and the complexity of the end game kept me guess right up until the final few pages.
I think the best thing way I can come up with to describe this book is that it is incredibly densely and richly imagined. The characters are well drawn, but they aren’t fully described to the reader which leaves plenty of scope for the reader to imagine other aspects of their lives and drawn their own conclusions. There is so much going on in this book that it doesn’t feel like any of the chapters are there simply to make up words. Everything has a point, a reason, and as far as I can tell it’s all relevant to the final conclusion.
The other aspect of this book which I really loved was the density and cleverness of the language used. This isn’t a book which talks down to it’s reader. It expects you to keep up, to read every word and to engage with the linguistic world which has been created. I tend to read quite fast, and on a few occasions I found myself having to go back and re- read a section just to be sure I got it all! Within the authors writing style as a whole each character has a very distinctive voice and they are all clearly delineated. I love this in a book because nothing annoys me more in a novel than when all the characters sound the same.
I have never read any of China Mieville’s other works and I hadn’t even heard of him before I picked this up on a whim in January but I will defiantly be seeking out some of his other works now, indeed possibly his whole back catalogue. I think this book will be a lesson to me in not giving up on something in the first few chapters, because if I had never gone back to this book I would have been all the poorer without it.
All in all a really fantastic read. I would defiantly recommend this book and I think I will go and exhort a few of my family members to read it also!