Thursday, 13 June 2013

Supernatural Freak - Book Review

Supernatural Freak
by Louisa Klein

When paranormal expert Robyn Wise is offered an outrageous sum of money to cure a boy who is turning into a dead tree, she's very sceptical. A politician ready to pay that much to make his son stop growing branches instead of hair? Come on! She's more likely to be abducted by aliens. This is a trap. Or much worse. And, of course, it's much worse.

The child is turning into a dark portal, created by a powerful entity determined to absorb Fairyland's power. This means that not only queen Titania and her court are in danger, but the very balance of the magic fluxes.

Robyn'd rather stick a pencil in her own eye but, to learn how to destroy the portal, she has to sneak into the Wizardry Council, a place full of wizards who are hiding something—though it’s certainly not their dislike of her. There, she discovers a terrible secret that could help to overthrow Fairyland's enemies for good, but puts her in the midst of an ancient and deadly war, and not as a bystander, but as the main target. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this review; I had such mixed reactions to the book. So, I’m going to begin by saying that, despite the issues I had with it, I really enjoyed reading it and laughed out loud at several points. The story was packed full of supernatural stuff, a little crazy, and a lot of fun.

The book is written in the voice of the main character, Robyn, who has a sarcastic and wry sense of humour, and who never seems to view the world or the dangerous situations she is in entirely seriously. This gives the book a lovely light-hearted feel, perhaps something akin to Buffy or Charmed, and there always seems to be a faintly teasing undertone, as if the author knows the story (and the whole genre) is a bit silly, and is going with it enthusiastically. There were points where the humour even seemed to take on a slightly camp or bizarre quality, and sections where I wasn’t entirely sure if I was supposed to be taking the characters/situation seriously or not. For instance, there is a wizard named Gock Wang. At first I thought this was Robyn’s nickname for him, but no, it does actually seem to be his real name. Strange... but kinda works. It’s that sort of book.

The characters themselves are mainly well written and interesting. I have a soft spot for supernatural fiction in which the heroine has a gang of helpers (again, that Buffy/Charmed feeling). I loved the idea of the stuffy but sweet ghost in Robyn’s attic, the geeks, the fun-loving uncle, and the magical friends. I also liked the brief glimpse of Robyn’s parents. One character, who looks set to become a love interest, was a little more irritating at points, and I found that some of Robyn’s uncle’s jokes fell very flat (but maybe they were supposed to!). Robyn herself is an oddball. She’s so flippant about the supernatural aspects of her life, but didn’t seem too impressed with the idea of saving the world. She seems a little wrapped up in her own world, and her little quirks (her collection of action figures based on a beloved cartoon, for instance) were wonderful. She does seem to stereotype people very easily, however, which became annoying. Overall, I thought all the different personality types of Robyn and her friends made a nice, fun mix.

Unfortunately, the characters’ speech was often jarring. Many of them sounded exactly like each other, or used colloquialisms that seemed out of place. Everyone called each other ‘mate’, from the modern characters to the wizards who have been alive for centuries, and even a faerie! At other points, slightly weird words and phrases called attention to themselves. ‘Cut a caper’ and ‘British aplomb’ are two that popped up a lot, and were very noticeable every time they did. I liked that the main character had such a mixed European background, and that she could speak several languages, but her obsession with ‘typical’ traits of each was a little weird. This was especially the case with British people, and so we are reminded constantly that the British should be unflappable and in control at all times.

The story itself was fun and incredibly fast-paced, which meant that the book was a very quick read. At points it did become almost a little jumbled, with perhaps just a bit too much going on. Having said that, the author does handle it well, and though it’s a bit of a whirlwind, she never lets it get out of control. Some bits felt a little unresolved – the abomination and the exact fate of the dark elf, for one – and everything was rounded off very suddenly at the end. However, this could have been to leave things open for a sequel, which I very much hope there will be! I would like to read more about these characters and their adventures.

The book has some issues, mainly with some out-of-place words and phrases and slightly awkward dialogue. There were also some bits that bemused me a little. But the story and characters are so much fun, and the quirky, wry, and sometimes bizarre humour really lifts the book. I enjoyed reading it. I think this has promise, and could become a great series. I’m definitely intrigued to read more!

Thank you to the author for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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