Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This is another classic from Gaiman - who always amuses, challenges and compels you to read.

The story starts as an ordinary family is murdered by a cold blooded killer - but the baby manages to escape by crawling away and finds his way into the Graveyard of the title. Here he is protected by the mysterious Silas, whilst being adopted by Mr & Mrs Owens - who had themselves died in the 1750s. He is called Nobody Owens (Bod for short) and he is given the freedom of the graveyard so he can can go about the graveyard and see as the dead do.

This is the story of how he grows up, some of the fascinating ghosts and people he meets along the way, the off beat education he receives from the ghosts and how he ultimately defeats the mysterious and secret organisation that wanted him dead in the first place. Wonderfully amusing, frighteningly scary and a great adventure too. The Sleer - a sort of ghostly serpent - that protects the treasures in one mausoleum is a nightmare creature you would never want to meet, it inspires fear and dread in all who enter it's realm (and that includes you as reader too!)

Fantastic ink and wash style illustrations by Dave McKean add to the menace and the enjoyment.

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

I enjoyed Stroud's previous trilogy and looked forward to this first in a new series. I was not disappointed even though the feel of this is quite different.

Halli lives in a time and place that feels Nordic, and is steeped in a history of saga-like stories. He is a bit of a misfit, and an adventurer in a society that has a settled feel to it. He meets a girl, Aud, who is equally as headstrong and misfitting as he is and they challenge all the legends to find a place for themselves. A strong and involving adventure - I hope there will be more to follow.

Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera

This is every body's nightmare realised. To be an innocent person arrested and charged is a horrifying thought, just imagine the horror when not only are you innocent, but you are caught up in anti-terrorist actions and end up in the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison.

This is such a gripping book you are horrified but can't turn away, and must live through all of Khalid's nightmare. The torture scenes are sickening, but need to be read; the sense of time and being totally disoriented is compelling; the fear of normal life on the return to home is understandable and sympathetically dealt with. A book for our times.