The Boy In Winter's Grasp by John D. Scotcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is advertised as a YA novel, though I confess I hadn’t realised its YA label until after I’d finished it, so I read it from the point of view of an adult assuming they were reading an adult book. Did that make a difference? Not a jot. This would be a great book whatever genre box it was put in.
The book sets out its stall from the start with the flavour of something beyond normality and planting a layer of unease in the reader’s mind over the troubled Flyte family and 15 year old Christopher in particular. It is more than internal family troubles that Christopher will have to contend with. The reader is drawn into the atmosphere and mores of a 1914 boys’ school as Christopher is sent home in disgrace. Every backdrop and every context whether used fleetingly or as a major location is painted in wonderful detail. Christopher is a well-drawn central character. It is easy to emphasise. Indeed it’s impossible not to, and then the book won’t let you go.
The unfolding of the story and introduction of the key characters isn’t rushed, with each new character becoming a new and fascinating focus. As a reader I was drawn along into Christopher’s world, then Bailey’s, then Sama’s. The opening tells a deceptively simple story, but it’s gripping and as it expands it becomes a fantasy adventure to rival anything on the market.
It is frightening, heart-warming, gripping, exciting and all but impossible to put down. Very different from Harry Potter yet somehow cast from the same magic and every bit as good.
An ambitious mix of World War 1, Arthurian Britain, myth and fantasy, it could so easily have missed the mark, but Scotcher proves himself a wordsmith of real talent and gets it spot on. I can’t wait for the next.
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