Gifted by Donald Hounam

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Gifted by Donald Hounam

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: Interesting world building, some good characters and plenty of gory details, but a slightly jumpy, almost stream of consciousness style narrative leaves the reader disoriented on occasion. Try before you buy.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0552571876

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Fifteen-year-old Frank is a forensic sorcerer, employed to solve murders and other grisly crimes in a world where adults get the blur and lose their eyesight by their mid-twenties, and only the young have enough sorcerous power to summon demons and angels.

Frank is very good at what he does, but he's not a people person. In fact, he's singularly talented at annoying them, especially his boss, who seems to revile him as much as she needs him.

When the Bishop of Oxford is found decapitated, Frank's the only one that thinks there's something fishy going on. Well, more fishy than a guy having his head lopped off. But if he's going to get anyone to listen, he might just have to take a few risks - and Frank's already in trouble with the Society. If they realise he's acting outside his job description he could end up burnt at the stake.

There's a lot of good going on in this novel. The world building is great with a unique set up that makes the story interesting, but also provides excellent conflict for the characters. The idea that the adults are so dependent on the children - both to help them see and because only the young can do sorcery - places a lot of responsibility in the hands of the main characters Frank and Marvo. And Frank isn't very good with responsibility and decision making, which is a lovely recipe for disaster.

The characters are pretty good too. Frank is self absorbed and a little bit crazy, rampaging through the city and not pausing to listen to anyone. But he's also determined and self deprecating, and prepared to take enormous risks to solve the case. He feels like a very real person, and a very real teenage boy.

Which leads onto the problem I had with the book. It's written almost like a stream of consciousness from Frank's point of view. It's very authentic and has a lot of character, but it jumps around a lot and leaves a lot of gaps for the reader to fill in. Which left me feeling a little disoriented at times, and having to reread sections to see what I missed. Quite often, I couldn't work it out.

It left the whole story a somewhat dissatisfying experience. Partly because I really wanted to like it, but also because it felt like there was this higher level of meaning just out of my reach that I wasn't able to access. Which was frustrating and ultimately started to irritate me a little.

Overall, it's a book probably worth borrowing, rather than buying. Entertaining, with some really great concepts, but not always easy to follow.

My thanks to the publisher for sending a copy.

Teen readers and fans of teen fiction should check out Bookbag's Top Ten Teen Books of 2014 for some great recommendations.

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Buy Gifted by Donald Hounam at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gifted by Donald Hounam at


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