Monday, July 11, 2016

The Wolf in the Attic Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Paul Kearney
Publisher: Solaris
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Standalone
Pages: 320

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The Old World vs The New World

(An advanced copy was provided by the publisher).

In 1920's Oxford, twelve year old Anna Francis and her father are displaced Greek refugees from the First World War. While wandering around late at night Anna encounters the Romani, a group of traveling gypsies that take a great interest in her. It's through these people that Anna learns about the magic that was found in the old world, magic that is slowly disappearing.

I've only read one book by Paul Kearney and that was Riding the Unicorn, a vastly different book from what's being presented here. It's a true testament that the author is able to write a story about a schizophrenic that travels back to a Middle Age fantasy world, and then completely switch gears and write an Oxford styled coming of age immigrant story.

Anna is a beautifully written character, flaws and all. You get a very strong sense of a girl who's very curious about her world, but who's utterly alone due to her being home schooled and that fact that she's not a native of England. Her reminiscing of the heroes of ancient Greece and her beautiful homeland ties in nicely to book's fixation on the slow death of the Old World. Her hatred of the Turks and her prayers to God for him to "kill them all," straddles a line between cute and terrifying, but nonetheless fits in to the logic of a child that's lost all that she loved in the world.

The prose is very illustrative, and doesn't take much work for the reader to get a view of the industrializing Oxford, and the conflicting but beautifully drawn stretches of forest and green in the nearby surrounding areas. Prose is definitely one of the biggest highlights of the story, and it's definitely stronger than other Kearney novel I've read, but there's been over two decades of time between publication dates.

The Romani that Anna encounters introduces the magical elements of the story. It also introduces Anna to Luca, a young boy that travels with them, and of course sets up a potential romantic interest. It's the development of this relationship that stands as the novels weakest point, it doesn't come across as authentic. The development of Luca also was cause for concern as he begins the story as a fairly world experienced and knowledgeable youth, but ends it by being completely naive about the Romani he's traveled and lived with his whole life.

Paul Kearney continues to remain one of fantasy's best kept secrets. The Wolf in the Attic is appropriate for Young Adults, but I believe the book would be striking to older readers, or readers that enjoy literary fiction more than say traditional fantasy.

Score: 7.8

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