‘The Bronze Key’ – Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

The Bronze Key

Cassandra Clare and Holly Black waste no time in reminding us of the events of Book Two and returning us to the thick of the action. Call remains a target, and he is unsure who to trust after the revelations about who he really is.

With some hesitation, Call returns to the Magisterium for his third year. Sadly, after the horrific murder of one of their peers, it is clear that someone is out to get Call. He, Aaron and Tamara don’t get a moment to relax as they – against everyone’s wishes – hunt for the killer themselves. To mark the development of the characters we get slightly more focus on their interpersonal relationships, but this actually provides some comic relief.

There are more than one or two dramatic moments, and we get some further revelations to pique our interest for the next book. I couldn’t help but feel some reservations about the integrity of a number of the characters who feature in this story. No matter what they say, I just don’t trust those people who claim to have Call’s best interests at heart. However, I think some of these characters may well feature further on in the series so we’ll see how things develop.

Personally I was a little surprised by the route taken by the authors right at the end. If I’d read this as a younger reader, I’m not sure I’d have wanted to continue the series – although I do wonder whether Call will end up dabbling in this area and continuing Constantine’s work.

Now all that remains is to wait for another year…

‘Born Scared’ – Kevin Brooks

Born Scared

Due for publication in early September 2016, this is the first offering by Kevin Brooks since he won the Carnegie Medal in 2014 with the highly topical The Bunker Diary.

Brooks has always been one of those writers that I’ve admired for tackling that which is not obvious. He finds the unusual in every one of his characters, and sometimes it is more successful than others. In this instance, though there are things I would have liked to have further detail about I have to say that I was absorbed throughout the time I was reading this.

From the opening pages we are told that Elliot is scared of everything. There is no obvious explanation for this, and nobody seems able to help him. He survives because of his daily dose of medication – but even that experience creates fear. I think there is a part of Elliot that many people will identify with, though his anxiety is extreme and he appears to be resigned to allowing others to manage his environment as best they can.

While Elliot’s experiences would be interesting, they wouldn’t keep us engaged for the whole novel. So we find Elliot in the awful position on Christmas Eve of only having two pills left and, with an awful snow storm on the way, plans are made for his mother to collect his prescription.

It may seem a farcical situation, but Elliot’s mother gets caught up in events that nobody could predict. When she does not return at the expected time, Elliot is forced into the truly terrifying situation of having to step outside his own home and go to find her.

Telling you what happens to Elliot from this point on would be unfair. Suffice to say, Brooks describes the terror Elliot feels with sensitivity. It was thoroughly absorbing to read. I’d have liked a little more detail in places, but I could not wait to finish it once it became clear how the various characters were linked.

A huge thank you to Egmont publishing and NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ – R.L. Stevenson

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

There’s nothing like returning to a classic to remind me why I love reading, and how lucky I feel to be part of a literary heritage that covers such a wide range of narratives.

I find it hard to believe that there is anyone who does not know the basic outline of this story. The concept of scientific advancement and the horrors of behaviour outside the social norms were topical ideas at the time Stevenson wrote this, and the conflict between personal desire and social convention remains relevant today.

Re-reading The Curious Case, I was struck by the fact that Mr Utterson – as the epitome of a Victorian gentleman – narrates these events in an attempt to make the supernatural elements of the story more palatable to readers of the time. While the conventions of Gothic horror tend to make me laugh now rather than feel the fear that would have been experienced by Stevenson’s contemporaries, I can still admire the construct of this novella. A deliciously dark story.