Monday, 21 April 2008

The Book of Dead Days, Marcus Sedgwick

The Book of Dead Days has been variously described in online reviews as "fast-paced", "spell-binding", "chilling" and "suspenseful". It was nominated for the Guardian Award, and was also shortlisted for the Sheffield Book Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. This book is not part of my Once Upon A Time II challenge list, but I picked it up after finishing My Swordhand is Singing for the challenge, so I might as well to review it for the Challenge review site, in case anyone else is interested in it.

Set in the Dead Days between Christmas and New Year's this is a young adult's fiction whose central character is a young boy simply named Boy. Boy serves as something of a slave to a famous magician Valerian. The focus of the story is Valerian's attempt to escape a devilish pact made 15 years ago before his time runs out on New Year's Eve. Aided by Boy and a young servant girl, Willow, Valerian runs about, encountering obstacles and detours, trying to find a book that will provide him with a way out of this death pact. There is a twist at the end of the story, that is linked to Boy and the solution to Valerian's problem.

After reading My Swordhand is Singing, I did not have unreasonably high expectations for The Book of Dead Days. I only wanted a quick and easy read, knowing that Marcus Sedgwick's writing is straightforward and plain, as it should be to be suitable for young adults target market. The Book of Dead Days began with some promise: descriptions of The City in which these adventures take place evokes a haunting and complex labyrinth of crumbling, dark structures and some interesting characterisations of Boy, Valerian and Willow. However, these promising starts did not continue into the rest of the book. After the first few chapters, the book ended up purely driven by plot. Sadly though, the plot was so contrived and peppered with so many awkward plot devices that I lost interest in the story! I only finished the book so I could evaluate its suitability for my 8-year-old son.

With the many loose ends and unanswered questions at the end of the book, the story is set up for a sequel, which I imagine the author hopes will leave readers yearning for more. But I did not even feel for Boy nor did I want to know how the story continues for him. I did not enjoy this book at all and I'm sorry to say that I will not be reading the sequel, but I'll ask my son to write a review if he decides to read The Dark Flight Down. For such a positively-reviewed book, nominated for so many awards, I think I'm really being very picky about the books I want to read! I've even lost interest in Interworld, which I'll ask my son to review, since I'm moving on to The Dark Materials trilogy ASAP!

No comments: