It's not often that I finish a book feeling hungry. Not just hungry for more of the story, but hungry for cake. I mean really hungry for cake. Ishbelle Bee's wonderful debut novel; The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath is a book were everyone seems to be obsessed with eating, and not just cake, we have characters whose diet may be on the little extreme side. One even likes to eat people so he can gain their power It may be a bit drastic, but the character is question is the most dastardly to creep through the pages of a novel in many a long year.
This is an extraordinary book, while the the story itself may sound simple, girl gets locked in a clock by her Grandfather, comes out of it as something more than human, is pursued by the Lord of the Underworld, and is protected by a shapeshifting policeman called Goliath. OK it may not be that simple. However where this book shines is not in its conception, it is the book's fabulous execution which lifts this book into something rather special.
It is fitting for a book that is based around a character who can open portals through time should not be told in a completely linear fashion. The book's narrative is a complex time twisted tale, that requires the reader to pay attention. I'll be honest when I first approached this book I was somewhat confused by the shifting time frame. But hold on, once you get into the swing of the book the twisted narrative soon falls into place and gives the reader the ultimate pay off by the time this story comes to it's conclusion.
Set in a fictionalised version of Victorian London, which is both instantly recognisable and uniquely fantastical at the same time. This is the sort of Victorian landscape that will be firmly rooted in the minds of those who grew up watching such classics as Box of Delights. The book is filled with same sort of dark yet whimsical sense of wonder, which used to be such a part of Sunday afternoon teatime television. You won't recognise many of the places in the book, Ishbelle has created a mirror version of London where magic and devilry walk the streets in a believable manner.
There is a dark heart to this book, hell, the main villain wants to eat Mirror so he can gain her powers. It would have been so easy for both Mr Fingers and his adoptive son John Loveheart to become cliched finger wringing almost Mr Burns like over dramatised villains, but Ishbelle hones then in and gives them a real sense of dread and nastiness.
At it's heart this is a story about the love and friendship Mirror and Golliath. The chemistry that exists between the two main characters is a joy to read. There is a real sense of love and compassion between them, and when thanks to the twisty timey narrative of the story, we think something has happened to one of them you are genuinely shocked. After reading this book I guarantee that you two will want your very own Goliath.
If I had one criticism it would be the fact that everyone had a fantastical name, but then again I can see why the author did this, in that it adds to the fairy tale element. Fairy tales are renowned for stories about Bob and Frank. I think it would have helped to have had some normally named characters in the book.
The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath is an exceptional book, a real fairy tale for adults. It has great flights of fancy, wonderful characters and a powerful under current of dread that all good fairy tales should have. A glorious mix of horror and Fantasy, that will take you on a journey you will never forgot, just make sure you pack something to eat.