No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, February 06, 2016

2016/12: The Devil's Apprentice -- Jan Siegel

There are few situations when you find yourself wishing for a velociraptor, but this was one of them. [loc.5811]

Pen is a sensible and truthful thirteen-year-old, not at all interested in adventure, fantasy et cetera. Unfortunately, she's the sole survivor of her branch of the family tree, which means that she's the executor of Andrew Pyewackett's will. (Why yes, he has been dead for some time: but now he's getting impatient.) Pen ends up with the job of caretaker, looking after an old house in Temporal Crescent, Hampstead. The house, it turns out, has no doors -- at least on the outside. Inside, however, there are many doors, and they lead to many realities, some of which are considerably more Real than others.

Aided only by Quorum (a butler), Gavin (a keen chef who's also a dab hand with a taser) and Jinx (a teenaged Goth witch) -- not to mention a goblin nicknamed Stiltz -- Pen finds herself up against the house's Owner, whose immortality is finite and who needs an apprentice. And the house offers many trials for candidates.

In the other major plot thread, Ghost is the leader of a gang of boys in plague-ridden seventeenth-century London. Ghost knows he doesn't belong there, but he doesn't remember much about his past. He's determined, though, to protect the rest of the gang -- especially young Cherub -- from the manifold threats of their existence, and he's not afraid to enact violent vengeance on those who hurt his friends.

The Devil's Apprentice is sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious, occasionally very gory. Jan Siegel (who also writes as Amanda Hemingway) constructs a complex (and occasionally, temporarily, confusing) plot, with interesting characters and excellent pacing. This feels very much like the first instalment of a new series: where o where is the next?

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