5 / 5 Stars
Oh so dark, but oh so VERY good.
It's been a while since I've had a proper book hangover - and I have definitely got one after this! To be honest, I purchased the book on a bit of a whim a while ago, thinking it looked like a quirky, fantastical sort of tome. Well, it was both those things, but so much more too.
So, what's the book about? The central character is David, a young lad whose mother dies. He's left with his dad, who remarries and has another child. David is resentful, and this proves to be the perfect formula to bring the Crooked Man into his world.
Following his dead mother's voice, David travels to a land where fairy stories are brought to life; but far darker and more sinister than you would imagine. Snow White's become an obese monstrosity, the forest wolves have turned into Loups, and don't even get me started on the Hunter, who is now a Huntress that loves to cut up children, sew their heads onto animal bodies, then relentlessly pursue them to the death.
For David to outsmart the evil Crooked Man, he's going to need to be fearless, and he's also going to need to overcome that simmering resentment that got him here in the first place...
This was an outstandingly well-written book. Lyrical without being pretentious, the author has managed to create a richly imagined yet threatening fairytale world. He's also successfully captured those childhood fears - being abducted, being chased by something evil, being captured and tortured by a monster - and he's woven them seamlessly into a novel that doesn't feel child-like at all.
Make no bones about it though, this book was dark. After reading the first 50 pages or so, I was gobsmacked at how much darkness was in it; death, child-molestation, serious threat to children... it was all in there! With other books I might have found this seriously distasteful, but somehow, the author managed to walk the fine line between good literature and poor-taste shock value.
I ADORED the characters themselves. Each and every one is so freshly depicted. Roland the knight (who was gay - I loved that detail) is so forlorn and brave, and Leroi the king of the Loups is oddly sympathetic at times, despite being a wild killer who's chasing David throughout the book. As for David himself? Either the author studied a child closely, or he remembers vividly what it's like to be a child. Either way, he captured those child-like emotions perfectly.
In conclusion - yes, you can tell that I adored this book. The dark, strange aspect of it might not be to everyone's liking, but if you're into magical realism, fantasy, fairytale retellings etc. I think this'll be right up your street.