The author describes his books as ‘genre-blending’. Wouldn’t argue with that. It is pretty much equal parts thriller, punk culture, urban fantasy, gang culture, recent history.
This is a book split between ‘then’ and ‘now’. ‘Then’ is the Nineties. ‘Now’ is unspecified (but there are sophisticated mobile phones). In the Nineties, the protagonists were young in Ordshaw, a British city with extremely rough areas in which there was a throbbing culture of punk, gangs, violence and trafficking of illegal substances by said gangs. The head of one of the gangs also ran a music club and acted as agent for certain musicians, including teenage Punk trio, The Dyre Grrls. The Grrls taught themselves how to do magic from a manuscript they found online. Unfortunately the only magic they could do was destructive. As such it was entirely suitable for the parts of Ordshaw they were making their mark in back then. They mainly used it to ramp up the energy at their performances.
The world turned, the trio split, and its members grew up. The main protagonist (and former front woman of the Dyre Grrls), Kit Fadulous (stage and pen name) now runs a free broadsheet called ‘Incite Ordshaw’ in which she takes to task Ordshaw’s movers and shakers every time they do something she disapproves of, which is most of the time.
Then Aaron (who is living in one of the roughest parts of Ordshaw to prove to himself he’s not afraid to do so) attracts a couple of muggers, and the old Deep Dark energy starts to revive.
There are a satisfying number of misunderstandings which the reader can work through while reading, in true whodunit fashion. The clues are there.
Phil Williams is a British author living on the south coast. His schtick is ‘sinister fantasy fiction’. He has another 11 books available. He also writes screenplays. He says he will be writing more about Ordshaw in the future. Williams divides his working life between writing educational books which help people understand English and writing fantasy books which assist people to escape reality. He is married and has an ‘impossibly fluffy dog’ called Herbert.
This is a first rate read. I don’t give 5*s lightly (as regular readers can attest). Cards on the table: I was a bit old for punk and I find thrash incredibly stress-inducing (I guess that’s the point). But I am very fond of urban fantasy and I love a good thriller. When I saw that the flashbacks in the book are set in the Nineties I found that particularly interesting. (I have an historical novel of my own out which is set in the Eighties.) It was a different Nineties to the one I lived, and truly does feel like another country. As it was dealing with cultures which passed me by at the time (punk, gang) I learned a lot too. (I do like to learn Stuff when I read fiction.)
And then there is the witchery. The Dyre Grrls learn their magic from a chatty manuscript which they find online. They read it on a black screen with green writing, before printing it in Courier, clandestinely, over a period of weeks, through somebody’s work printer. That took me back to some long-gone, home-made, computer projects like communally written novels; and early networking where (if you sat up late enough) you could exchange messages in real time with people in the USA, or even China. It all seemed so extraordinary then …
Williams is an excellent writer. The action does not let up. Plot developments are consistently clear and intriguing. Clever one-liners occur frequently. His violent scenes have a practical reality about them which I enjoyed a lot.
There is little more to say except – read this book. It’s a lot of fun.
Loads of bad language, plenty of violence
I was working from an ARC, so assume that proofing issues will have been dealt with prior to release
Rating: ***** Five Stars
Reviewed by: Judi Moore
Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words