BOOK REVIEW: Advent

AdventRemember when you were a kid and you could just lose yourself in books for hours on end?  Remember what it was like when the fantastical worlds and characters all seemed to so real that you could almost touch them? I think my ‘inner reader’ is still about 13 years old, trying to recapture that feeling again.

It’s hard to do that as an adult.  Even with the best-written books you are always aware, somewhere in the back of your mind, that this is an artificial world constructed out of someone else’s imagination.

It took me a while to figure out exactly why I loved Advent quite so much.  On the surface it doesn’t seem to be anything particularly new or special.  We have the teenage boy protagonist with an unhappy family life and special abilities that no-one else believes or understands.  We have the strange goings on in the remote parts of the English countryside; ancient powers rising after centuries of lying dormant.  So far so familiar.  But for some reason, from the moment I picked it up, I was able to just fall into the story in a way that I haven’t done for a long time.  In a word, it is magical.

There is a classic feeling to Advent, from the opening train journey onwards,which reminded me of the works of Alan Garner or Susan Cooper.  It shares with them the sense that beyond the dull grey curtain of the ordinary something strange, wonderful and terrifying might be lurking.  Maybe that is why it appealed so strongly to my inner thirteen-year-old.  Not that Advent is a children’s book.  It will appeal to both adults and readers in the ’Young Adult’ category, but this is no jolly little fantasy adventure.  It is dark and sophisticated, dealing with themes of insanity, fear, death, immortality and how power can be more of a curse than a blessing

The book intertwines the story of Gavin, the young modern protagonist, with a slowly unravelling tale of how an ancient magus came to gain and then lose all the magic in the world.   Slowly the threads are drawn together and we begin to see how the past events are impacting on the present.   Gavin himself is a wonderfully well-realised central character.  We may have seen plenty of young ‘chosen one’ type heroes before but this book gives us a new insight into how it can affect a person.  Gavin has had to learn the hard way that the way he sees the word is very different from how other people understand reality.  He has become so insular that he is almost sociopathic but during the course of the book he begins to realise that maybe it is the rest of the world that is wrong after all.

I had such a personal reaction to Advent that it is hard for me to say objectively whether others will enjoy it as much as I did.  It could be said that not that much actually happens over the course of the book.  It is the first part of a new series so there was always going to be a certain amount of scene setting.  Fortunately James Treadwell sets such a gorgeous scene that it doesn’t matter at all that the story takes a while to get going.  Step into the world of Advent and be prepared to lose yourself in it.  The magic is back!

Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Clover Winton-Polak

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