The Jade Boy by Cate Cain

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The Jade Boy by Cate Cain

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: First children's book by Cate Cain shows potential, with a particularly memorable villain. The heroes are less interesting and it's a bit too long, but this could be the start of a good series.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 440 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Templar
ISBN: 978-1848772298

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Jem Green is taken from his boring life as a servant to a duke to make the acquaintance of the duke’s new friend, Count Cazalon. Cazalon takes a worrying interest in twelve-year-old Jem, and the unease he initially feels is made even worse when he meets two children in Cazalon’s household and starts to find out just how evil the man is. Can Jem save himself, and the city of London, from Cazalon’s evil plans?

It’s an intriguing premise for a novel, and there are times when the book lives up to it. At other points, it’s not quite so good – never really bad, but often I felt I’d read too many other books similar to this for it to really capture my attention.

It works best when Count Cazalon is centre stage – he’s a truly evil villain, dripping with menace, and is the most impressive thing about the book for me. If anything, he’s perhaps too scary for some readers, and it’s a darker book than I’d expect it to be given the age of the main characters. In particular, a scene in which the heroine shows Jem a series of scars on her arm which are a result of Cazalon using her blood to communicate with her dead mother made uncomfortable reading, although it’s a powerfully written passage.

The heroes, on the other hand, are fairly standard for this sort of thing – young boy who never knew his father and is looked down upon by everyone around him, pretty girl who has a tragic past and is the ward of the villain, and villain’s slave, with special powers, who is largely ignored and underestimated by the bad guys. That said, the relationship between the trio is well-portrayed, as they grow to become friends and help each other through dark times.

I also felt the book was a bit on the long side – a fairly common complaint in fantasy, admittedly. I wouldn’t say it was a struggle to get through, as it held my attention pretty well, but I think I might have liked it more if it had been trimmed down a bit – I’m not convinced it really needed to be over 400 pages long.

Having said that, there are some strong points – as well as the wonderful Cazalon, there’s an ending which is stronger and less predictable than I would have expected, and we actually get a neat resolution followed by a very brief epilogue to help set up the second book. This always seems much more sensible to me than the cliffhanger-type endings which I tend to roll my eyes at, and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll definitely check out The Moon Child when it’s published next year.

Overall, worth reading for fantasy fans, and I’ll be interested to see how the second book compares. There’s enough promise here to make me think that Cain’s worth watching out for.

I think the Mortlock by Jon Mayhew series would be a real favourite with fans of this book, as it's another mixture of history and fantasy which also has memorable villains.

Buy The Jade Boy by Cate Cain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Jade Boy by Cate Cain at

Buy The Jade Boy by Cate Cain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Jade Boy by Cate Cain at


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