“Paul Reid died in the snow at seventeen. The day of his death, he told a lie–and for the rest of his life, he wondered if that was what killed him.“
An absolutely riveting beginning for a very enjoyable story. I’ve procrastinated forever on this review, prompting me to (re)resolve to review a book as soon as I read it, and not give into temptation to start the next book. At this point, I almost feel as if I need to re-read it–and at this point, I’m about ready to. I found this through Koeur’s review and was glad I picked it up. It felt like a breath of creativity in the urban fantasy field when I needed something newish.
Paul is an orphaned seventeen year-old intent on leaving the city. Annie is an Iraqi war vet intent on getting expert help for her autistic son, Zach. They are caught in a bus crash and thrown into another world where they are meant to continue their metaphysical journeys. Mr. Brill is attempting a takeover of the world.
Characterization is well done. Paul, Annie and the almost-mute Zach were very real, and Peck did a nice job individuating their voices and narrative. Paul had a bit of that young, antagonistic youth about him, but it wore off as he went deeper into the Commons. I particularly appreciated the first time Paul meets Annie and Zach, right after they’ve recovered Zach’s precious marble:
“The boy looked back up at his mother, who seeme as flummoxed by her son”s behavior as Paul was by her. Something important was going on, but Paul had no idea what.
The mother didn’t either. She glanced from Paul to the kid, as if there was some secret they kept from her.”
The writing was one of the highlights. Despite the occasional awkward sentence, Peck does a nice job conveying meaning with structure as well as wording. This is a particularly useful technique when he takes the perspective of a special-needs, apparently autistic character. It works at other times as well, particularly during a crash:
“A thing broke. A thing tore. A thing howled.
Bright, bright light. Too much.
All was light as the snowy windshield blazed at him in lines of hot stars.
The bus imploded into white.”
The tone hits a nice balance, seriousness with moment of hope and despair. There’s some horror-like moments that move it along, along with some leavening humor:
“Porter surveyed the group. ‘Everyone all right?’
No one answered. If bloody, wet, mud-crusted and pincer-chewed qualified, than yes, they were.”
“Annie and her consciousness reached a fork in the road and chose different directions.“
Overall, it feels a bit ‘new adult’ to me, with a focus on self-discovery as much as saving the world (yes, the Orphan’s Quest), done in a way modern readers should be able to appreciate and with creativity that sets it above the norm. I highly recommend it.
My thanks to NetGalley for the advance reader copy, and sincere apologies for delay in writing my review!