Author: James Treadwell
Format: Uncorrected Paperback
Expected release date: July 3rd 2012 (first published February 2nd 2012)
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Sent to me free of charge by Hodder & Stoughton, in exchange for an honest review.
Taken from Goodreads
For centuries it has been locked away Lost beneath the sea Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight. But now magic is rising to the world once more. And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall. When he arrives, there is no one there to meet him.
I love mythology. I've always enjoyed reading about the myths and legends of various different cultures and Treadwell blends bits and pieces of some of my favourites up in a blender and laces Advent with them. I also love poetic prose. I like narratives to weave and wander. It's one of the reasons I love Tolkien or the meandering narrative of Susanna Clarke. Given my liking of these things, I feel Advent should have sat quite nicely with my tastes... and yet I can't quite say that it did.
Even though the book has quite a lot going for it, the main reason it isn't sitting pretty with might not even be Treadwell's fault. When I put the book down, my first thought was of the his editor, whoever that may have been. I couldn't help but wonder why this 448 page book was allowed to stay 448 pages long when, frankly, a solid half of those pages were unnecessary.
Treadwell's prose is quite often pretty, but equally as often it's pretty pointless. Let's see if I can find you an example or two...
1. "Everywhere else she had shown him, there really hadn't been much to see, in the literal sense. The house long predated the Age of Stuff; it was spare, rich only in emptiness."
Preceding this, there are several pages of dense descriptive prose which details every inch of Pendurra, the house that Gavin (our protagonist) is being shown around. It's irritating to slog through all of that, to have the author show you all of that, and then turn and say that none of it was really noteworthy!
Besides it being contradictory to the rest of the prose, look at the structure of those two sentences. This repetitive style, the subordinate clauses and, sigh, the semicolons are indicative of many passages of the book. Don't get me wrong, the imagery is nice and all, but when every sentence is that dense, every description that repetitive... it's tiring. While I was reading it I got the sense that Treadwell's editor hadn't ever imparted Arthur Quiller-Couch's sage advice that sometimes, even when you've written the most beautifully artistic prose, if it's repetitive or redundant, you must "murder your darlings".
2. Here's another example. This one was too damn long to type.
The first sentence, "It was always quiet" tells you all you need to know, really. But it seems that if it's worth being said, it's worth being said with a flourish. The rest of the paragraph is nice, but is it necessary? It's only my opinion, but hey, that's what you're here for! (Note also the Yoda-structure of the first sentence of the next paragraph. Irksome, it becomes).
I had a third example lined up but then realised that then I might become repetitive too!
Now, I'm not going to argue that much of Treadwell's writing is actually quite lovely. In places it's almost poetry. Unfortunately, somewhere within these lovely sentences and long, artsy paragraphs, the story got lost. At the beginning of the book I quite liked Gavin...even though he was called "Gavin". I sympathised with his situation and was curious to know more about the mysterious things he could see but nobody else could. I was curious about the missing aunt. I was curious about Marina, the strange girl of Pendurra who had never heard swear words before.
I was less curious about Johannes Faust. His narrative was told in reverse chronological order and, honestly, it was boring. I felt I was having to wait long enough for action to occur in the main narrative, without these tedious intermissions. Maybe it was because they were set in 1537... I've never been one for historical fiction...
Unfortunately, my curiosity fizzled out well before the narrative started to get going on roughly page 150. I slogged through it, but this was a book I was kind of relieved to close. All I can say at the end of it is that I can see James Treadwell is a very educated man who can write. That's what will stick with me. Not the prose. Not the characters. Not the re-imagined mythological figures. If he (or his editor) could have sliced and diced this 448 page whopper, then I think there might have been a good and gripping story within those pages.
I hate saying bad things about free books. Hell, I hate saying bad things about any books! This one might sit better with someone more concerned with the art of pretty prose than with story. Unfortunately, I'm not that person.
[And I feel I'm being generous...]