Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin

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Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A boy living the most sheltered of lives encounters his destiny in this dark fantasy for the young reader - as long as they have the stomach for it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1405246767

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Birthdays for Theo are not exactly how we would recognise them. One bland, forgettable present from each of the three people who live in his household. Some pink cake at the best of times. A trip to the cemetery, with the butler making sure nobody else is in sight. But this one is different - some person unknown leaves something for him. And by the time burglars break in, and force Theo to leave the confines of his bedroom and find some of the secrets of the house, it is too late - Theo is set on a nightmarish trail between two warring forces, as the truths of his destiny, his origins, and his hands, come to the fore.

The opening chapter of this is one of the most gripping you'll encounter all year. There are so many questions posited by the set-up, I could be wearing down my question mark button on this keyboard all morning. But I won't - as included in that is my quibble with this book.

Putting aside the rollicking pacing, passing over the easy and instant pictorial images our author gives us of his subterranean worlds, and more, and leaving the nicely-wrought characters, the big picture of this book is one that is a little too obscured for a little too long.

I can equate it to a huge jigsaw, where so little is revealed - the puzzle is in the wrong box, and for a while we can't even find the edge pieces. It takes us time to settle into the edgy but uneasy mood of the book - we see computers etc, but can't remain convinced we're in the 21st century, as things are so gothic, Victorian, unworldly. The discovery of who is intending what with Theo and why is part of the pleasure, but there is so much brought to the table - forgotten superheroes, extinct villains, mysterious mythologies and entities - we might feel a little lost. We take some time even working out which side the two novel, fantastical creatures to be met here are on.

There is another twinge to the balance I must pick up on. The cover suggests a nine-plus audience for this book, and while the language and writing suggests that is correct, there is a lot of gore here. A disembodied head gets nibbled at. One character suffers a lot, quite graphically, towards the end. The skills of the author in bringing everything to life (or unlife) is sometimes a bit too much to take.

Yet those skills are commendable in a lot of other places. The set up is of a distinguished quality, and while I might object to so much being thrown into the mix I do like the world of this novel - its smoky darkness, its descent into pitch black sewers, its mysteries dripping with intrigue and the bizarre. The baddies (Doctor Saint prime among them) are suitably bad, the milieu only provoking more sinister threat to our likeable hero (and the friends he manages to meet, when he leaves his sheltered life behind), and the plotting never letting sight of the wonders it might bring.

If I hadn't felt the parental concern of the flinch-worthy horror, if I hadn't wondered quite when we were for so long, and if I hadn't thought (incorrectly) this would be one of those horrid open-ended series openers we like but still must grumble at - then this would have been an overwhelming book, and an overwhelming success. I still think it has the power to absorb to the end however, and the recommendation and strong Bookbag star rating are both still forthcoming.

I must thank Egmont's kind people for my review copy.

Another child underground can be met in the brilliant Joe Rat by Mark Barratt. And for further gothic plotting underneath London, try The Doomsday Machine by Catherine Webb.

Buy Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin at Amazon.com.


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