Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Witch Watch

As a frequent reader of Shamus' blog, of course I was going to pick up the book he wrote The Witch Watch. (Despite the basic sounding similarity, it is completely different to Mogworld.) You can read a taster here. And you should. The summary is: a good book, go read it. With a few problems.

Gilbert was dead, but is brought back into the land of the living, and isn't particularly happy about it. Neither are the people who brought him back, because they didn't intend to. And go begins Gilbert's new 'life', leading to the Witch Watch, and dealing with the black arts. All within Victoria-esque London. [Shamus captures the Victorian English phraseology well, causing some minor dissonance when suddenly encountering American spelling of some words.] Yeah, that's not a lot of story I'm telling you about, but hey, you can find out about it yourself. I did.

The characters are well realised. Gilbert, Alice and Simon all 'ring true', and stay consistent throughout the book. (Which is impressive considering you've got a guy in 21st century America writing a young lady in Victorian England.) Each character has little touches that help them stand out, for example Alice's ribbons give her a distinct note of personality. The world also has been worked out. Magic is present, and Shamus has given a lot of thought as to how it works, and how people deal with it.

I also liked the illustrations (by Heather, wife of Shamus). There should have been more of them!

However, I do have two (related) major issues with the book. The first: Pacing. We have an action scene, smash cut to a talky scene, then cut back to action. It kills the sense of momentum, and made it easy to put the book down and do something else. Secondly: America. To me, the entire section involving the journey and the being there was, to be honest, padding. I see no reason to have it. It could have been anywhere, there was nothing plot related to be gained from the fact that it was America, aside from giving time to for the bad guys to do things (and even then that could easily have been compressed). The entire America section could be excised without harming the story.

That might sound like a killer to enjoyment, but it wasn't. I enjoyed the book, happy to get back to reading it... and Shamus said he's thinking of writing another (book in general that is, not a sequel to this), and I look forward to reading that as well.


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