In a spectacular failure to keep up my idea to review new fiction on Tuesdays, here, on a Friday, is my review of The Nemesis Charm, the second in the series of Daniel Ingram-Brown’s Firebird Chronicles. I should say before I begin that the author sent me a copy and asked me for an unbiased review. Here it is.
Firstly, Daniel, I’m shallow and easily swayed by shiny baubles. If you want an unbiased review it is unwise to compliment my use of pictures on this blog and send me signed copies, artwork, and a bookmark. You sly devil, you.
The Nemesis Charm is a young adult fantasy novel about two young apprentice adventurers living on a land called Full Stop Island. A mysterious disease is slowly sending inhabitants into an unwake-able sleep and it’s up to Fletcher and Scoop to try to find a cure.
I love a bit of fantasy, and I love young adult fiction. In fact I’ve never really liked the label ‘young adult’, because it seems to me that the books you read in your teens will be the books that mould and shape your literary tastes for the rest of your life. Getting more sentimental, I would say that you never feel as connected to the fictional worlds in books as you do when you’re a teenager, and most readers spend all their lives hoping to rediscover that feeling of complete immersion they experienced as a teen reader. Young adult books are the books we want to find again when we’re grown ups.
Which is a good place to start, because the story here revolves around the connections, maybe physical, maybe mental, between a storyteller and the world of stories. It’s not a new concept. In fact, one of my absolute favourite authors, Jasper Fforde (WHERE IS THE SEQUEL TO SHADES OF GREY, JASPER? WHERE???? ) has a ball weaving his way in between fictional and meta – fictional characters. But it’s definitely one that deserves more exploring, and The Nemesis Charm is a good place to start. However, I think that I would like to have seen a wee bit more of what was going on on this side of the looking glass. All of the characters sprang off the page and into real life (ironically) but the ones in the real world deserved some more paper space. I absolutely loved the way the story book world was described – people jump from incident to incident with no boring in between travel, and the physical space they inhabit is somehow less fine grained and in focus than the real world.It’s pretty clever.
The baddies were properly bad, too. The witch was a Granny Weatherwax from hell, and the Nemesis charm itself made my skin crawl. I loved the idea of the the witches’ son as well – I don’t want to say too much more in case I ruin the story.
Finally, I loved the parts at sea. My favourite Narnia book was always the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and, just like that book, here I could feel the salt spray on my face straight away. Make sure some of book three is set on board the Firebird, please!
I wasn’t so keen on the more high fantasy parts about the Storyteller and his princess. I think that’s mainly a personal taste thing, though. I have never been able to get completely on board with full on gods and fairies books, whoever much I try.
To sum up, I liked this book. It’s not my natural home, but it’s a fast paced adventure that will whip you up into turning the next page. I probably should have read the first in the series so I had a good grip of all of the characters, but I’ll definitely be keeping up with the third. In fact, I liked it so much I lent it to my fantasy junkie friend who was staying with me for the weekend. He disappeared into it immediately and I saw no more of him for the whole visit. It’s generally a good sign!
Next time I’ll be telling you what I think of My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. I’m on such a run of good books at the moment – I’m completely spoiled.
The Nemesis Charm, by Daniel Ingram- Brown, is published on 27 May 2016.