‘We don’t get many visitors. In fact, we don’t get any, ever. The midwife who helped deliver my sisters and me was probably the last one. Ordinary people don’t like to mingle with lunatics in a haunted house on a cursed hill.’
I’m always a little tentative when it comes to the literary genre of fantasy. Raised devoutly on the writings of Mr Tolkien, the ‘bar’ has been set to a high level and sadly, many books I have encountered within this genre tend to lose me by page seven, as my poor memory struggles to remember all the names of characters and locations, often difficult/impossible to pronounce, but words which would score very highly in a game of Scrabble, with a sixteen-letter name of a wizard, introduced on page two, or the seven-syllable location on page one, wherein lies the magic pot/sword/wand/banana required to fulfil the main quest.
Thankfully, by page three of Isha Crowe’s new book, Gwythias – Door To The Void, I was already hooked – most noticeably because Isha’s writing is outstanding and draws the reader completely into the book…but much more of that later. First, grab your enchanted swords/daggers/spears/catapults/bananas and travel with me to the starting point; the plot itself.
The story focuses on a lad aged sixteen, named Peregrine Zircon Gwithyas. At first glance, Peregrine is no likely hero. Nor is his world an easy one to handle, for weirdness surrounds and engulfs him, like flames around a well-toasted marshmallow. Peregrine lives in an old, creepy house with his parents and two sisters, being the eldest of triplets. Nothing too odd there, perhaps, except that his sisters have a decidedly odd – perhaps even slightly reptilian – appearance and a fascination with ouija boards.
‘My sisters have bulbous heads that are way too big for their emaciated bodies, eyes that resemble rabbit droppings, and lips that are so thin and dry that they remind me of parchment. They have no eyebrows or lashes, and their grey, wrinkly scalps boast only a few brittle tufts of hair. I reckon they must have an undiagnosed genetic disorder, because they don’t actually look like girls; more like clumsily put together nightmarish interpretations of human beings.’
Their father is also blessed with ‘the odd’, although he mostly secretes himself away in his study/library and has an unnatural obsession with thimbles. Mother is also of little help, perhaps because she tries too hard to rectify the balance of normality within the Gwithyas household; mostly by obsessing over nosing online at houses, well beyond the reach of the family budget. Speaking of the Gwithyas household, there is another important member not to be overlooked, who resides in an ancient, seven-storey tower which stands in the back garden. Herein, lies ‘Nanny’; a lady of undeterminable age who may be just short of her 90th birthday, or someone easily old enough to remember the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 and events much earlier in time.
Thus begin the mysteries of the novel, guiding the reader easily into the odd world of the Gwithyas family and provoking some key questions early on: ‘Why is Peregrine so geeky and awkward?’… ‘What powers does he truly possess within his ‘bony, greasy acne-skinned and carrot-coloured haired’ frame?’….’What is the Void and who/what lurks there? and ‘How old exactly is ‘Nanny’, why does she live in a tower & why on Earth does she need to be becalmed by magical spells once a day, just to stop her from turning into something from ‘The Exorcist?’
Such is the complex world of young Peregrine Zircon Gwithyas, but – like all good stories – it’s about to get a whole lot more intense with a storyline that never fails to disappoint and ultimately could lead to the collapse of the human race and life as we know it.
As stated before, the writing is spot on – just right and well balanced. Unlike some previous books I’ve encountered in this genre, Isha’s writing truly allows the reader into the storyline, where the focus is upon the created characters and the development of a solid plotline, rather than an attempt to create complicated, often impenetrable, worlds with plotlines that fail to match the ambitiousness of the characters themselves. It takes good, genuine writing skill to pull this off and, most importantly, to create a piece of literary work which effortlessly encourages the reader to keep turning pages. Isha establishes and maintains the story as the most important character in the book, ultimately allowing the reader to care about what happens to the cast within the storyline and live it with them.
Magic, horror, teenage angst, love, family, potential Armageddon… this book has it all. Much recommended for young adults; indeed, all age groups.
‘It’s all in the mind. My mind. Tiny little fingers, paper-white with blazing red claws, scratch over the door frame, feeling their way out. Or in. Out of the Void, and into my world.’
‘We are coming, Gwithyas.’