This one is a bit more obscure than most the books I review and this is in part because this is a book which I picked up on holiday in Whitby, a popular seaside town in the Yorkshire Moors for those who do not know about it. The novel is a young adult/children’s fantasy novel set in Whitby and thus the novel is of local interest to the region. However for the sake of objectivity I will disregard my personal attachment to its setting. The book follows two kids, Lil and Verne and the last Whitby witch Cherry Cerise as they battle against returning magical forces, as a magical artefact known as the Nimius resurfaces and threatens the town with its power. Meanwhile the enigmatic Mister Dark, who appears to be at the centre of events that occurred in the town’s past, enters the stage to take advantage of the growing chaos.
The novel is interesting in places. It had an interesting premise, with a conflict between an ancient witch Scaur Annie and inventor gentleman Melchior Pyke being the focus of the novel. The way the past and the present connect together was interesting and the information was gradually drip fed in a way that made the revelations genuinely shocking and well timed with the novel’s climax. The use of flashback to show us Scaur Annie’s point of view, through Lil’s dreams, served as an interesting plot device though I wonder if the author used them a bit too often.
A problem with the novel is that it takes its time to get going and at the beginning of the novel most of the action happens through flashbacks while things in the present remain relatively peaceful. In fact the present stays mostly quiet except for a segment at the beginning and the novel’s climax. To be fair the novel’s climax was a decent one, though it ended rather abruptly, the build up was good and the revelations it brought were great. The conflict between Scaur Annie and Melchior Pyke and the way it continued into the modern day was a key moment of the novel for me and one that was worth the build up.
My one issue is that both Lil and Verne were passive as protagonists, especially in the climax. This was in part because of the way they both ended up possessed by Scaur Annie and Melchior Pyke and becoming their proxies in the war. As a result Cherry Cerise seems to do most the work during the climax. This was disappointing since Lil and Verne were the protagonists in my eyes so for them to be so passive in the end was a huge disappointment considering the amount of time we spent with them in the build up. Ultimately their entire character arc involved them getting possessed by two people who had been dead for centuries and becoming their meat puppets in their battle against each other. At first I was a bit intrigued by how they built up to this, with subtle changes in their personality but once they became possessed I wasn’t too keen.
Mister Dark was an all right villain for the book but was a bit of a generic evil type with no real personality except being a bit manipulative. I didn’t like him too much. A lot of the other characters seemed a bit meh as well, such as the girl Tracy whom Mister Dark manipulates. Not only does she come across as bratty and one dimensional but also a bit stupid for falling for Mister Dark’s obviously evil “I’m going to be your boyfriend” act. On a less serious note I also get the feeling the author hates goth because a lot of them seem to rave on about darkness, although there is plausible deniability here since most of the worst cases of this only occur in the climax when everyone in the town goes a bit crazy due to the influences of Mister Dark, Scaur Annie and Melchior Pyke.
Overall the novel is decent and if I ever see the sequel on the shelves I will pick it up just to see where the story goes. The novel isn’t perfect however and it took a while to get the good stuff. It struggled a bit in making the modern day Whitby interesting and it would have improved by having less flashbacks and instead have more action occur in the modern day instead. As someone who has been to Whitby I liked the way the novel blended itself in with the themes and gothic culture that is present in the town and the way it almost hangs a lampshade on it all. I will be keeping an eye on this author, that is one thing for certain.
IN A WORD: OKAY