Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray

The wych-kin have roamed the streets of London for the past twenty years. Young Thaniel Fox, son of the famous wych-hunter Jedriah Fox and a hunter himself, is out to get them. One night, as he is hunting a Cradlejack, a wych who steals infants in their sleep, he encounters a half-crazed young girl called Alaizabel Cray. As the story unfolds and she regains memories, the plot thickens and soon, it is made obvious that something larger than man is watching the world. And it isn’t benevolent.

For an odd reason – I cannot begin to fathom why – I found it hard to get into the story at first. Maybe it was my state of fatigue, or the setting in which I was reading it, because this novel quickly proved itself to be a remarkable book that is a must for all readers. I was drawn in almost immediately after my first, first impression, and could hardly set the book down.

The writing is excellent, with many elaborate descriptions and a beautiful, yet strange imagery. Also, even the most useless characters were lengthily enough described to give them a past, a physique, a mentality, without at all boring the reader.

The story itself was excellent, with new, interesting elements added on every page. The plot just kept getting thicker and darker. New places and characters were nicely introduced, and even though the excuse “My father was his friend” was slightly overused, the storyline was overall excellent. Even if the story did end up being of a we-must-save-the-world type, the author did it well, and it only became evident that the fate of the world was at stake rather late into the book.

I loved how the wych-kin weren’t your typical, invulnerable demons. In fact, they were quite vulnerable and not the brightest lot. They weren’t super-beings and humans could kill them, with the right weapons. There was an actual explanation behind their existence, too; this made me intensely happy. Too often, mysteries in books were left unresolved, and this frustrates me greatly.

The characters weren’t cliché or Mary-Sues. They were unique, had their own weaknesses, knew their limits, and were sometimes actually wounded. They were excellently developed, and beautifully described with the author’s usual talent. They lived, for the duration of the novel. Not once did their character falter or change abruptly, they stayed in character all along.

I also greatly appreciated how, without stating any explicit facts, the author told us the approximate era in which this book took place. Quite early on, it was established that the events took place in a fantasist London of the industrial revolution era. Because of this, it had a very steam punk feel to it, and was highly enjoyable. The explanations were subtly introduced and given away slowly, almost as if reluctantly. The book let the knowledge previously acquired seep in before throwing out more information. This gave suspense to the story, and the reader desired the missing bits and pieces greatly before understanding finally.

The realities in this book are brashly displayed. The lives of people aren’t necessarily perfect and beautiful. There is prostitution, death, violence, sickness, disfiguration, crippling, blood. The realism of it all, even if it is sometimes sickening, makes this novel even more enjoyable.

A little drawback was the titles of the chapters; they were like short résumés of the chapter and often contained spoilers. I jumped over them systematically to avoid the deception of knowing something beforehand.

Finally, there was an actual explanation to the wych-kin. This made me intensely happy, as some books would not even provide vital information of the sort.

With a feel-good aftermath and just the right amount of moral, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding was an excellent novel that I passionately loved.

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding Rating : 9,4/10

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