Advent. Book Review

AdventADVENT by James Treadwell,

Hodder, p/b, 624pp, £6.99

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

Gavin is a troubled teenager who doesn’t get on with his parents, teachers or peers.  He’s the weird kid who talks to invisible people and sees things that aren’t there.  So he’s looking forward to a stay with an eccentric aunt in Cornwall.

But she doesn’t collect him from the station, and seems to have disappeared, leaving cryptic notes about what she had been up to.  Gavin’s search for the truth, and his adventures along the way, form the bulk of the story.  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 there’s enough here to make it stand out from the crowd.  Gavin’s adventures, both in the city and when he arrives in Cornwall, are nicely creepy, foreshadowing what’s to come, and the reader is kept nicely off balance.  The historical story is told backwards, beginning with Faust drowning when his ship sinks – making what might have been dry exposition more interesting.  Treadwell’s prose is consistently tight and the characters are engaging.  There are also creatures I haven’t encountered before – I’m not sure what Corbo and Holly are, but I liked them, and like that they’re not elves or goblins.

Personally, I preferred the first half of the book, which is spooky and fun.  Once the proper fantasy stuff kicks off we meet a lot of new characters who don’t do very much, all of whom are strange and only some of whom are human – I got confused and lost some of my enthusiasm.  However, this is the first volume of a trilogy, so I’m writing a review based on a third of a story so each character’s arc is incomplete.  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.