Hodder, p/b, 624pp, Â£6.99
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Gavin is a troubled teenager who doesnâ€™t get on with his parents, teachers or peers.Â Heâ€™s the weird kid who talks to invisible people and sees things that arenâ€™t there.Â So heâ€™s looking forward to a stay with an eccentric aunt in Cornwall.
But she doesnâ€™t collect him from the station, and seems to have disappeared, leaving cryptic notes about what she had been up to.Â Gavinâ€™s search for the truth, and his adventures along the way, form the bulk of the story.Â This main plot is interspersed with a retelling of the Faust myth, set in the 16th century.
This is very much for the YA fantasy shelf, but thereâ€™s enough here to make it stand out from the crowd.Â Gavinâ€™s adventures, both in the city and when he arrives in Cornwall, are nicely creepy, foreshadowing whatâ€™s to come, and the reader is kept nicely off balance.Â The historical story is told backwards, beginning with Faust drowning when his ship sinks â€“ making what might have been dry exposition more interesting.Â Treadwellâ€™s prose is consistently tight and the characters are engaging.Â There are also creatures I havenâ€™t encountered before â€“ Iâ€™m not sure what Corbo and Holly are, but I liked them, and like that theyâ€™re not elves or goblins.
Personally, I preferred the first half of the book, which is spooky and fun.Â Once the proper fantasy stuff kicks off we meet a lot of new characters who donâ€™t do very much, all of whom are strange and only some of whom are human â€“ I got confused and lost some of my enthusiasm.Â However, this is the first volume of a trilogy, so Iâ€™m writing a review based on a third of a story so each characterâ€™s arc is incomplete.Â The last fifty pages or so reads like a prologue to the next book.
Overall, this is an engaging, atmospheric and well-told tale, written for a quite specific audience.