Ginger Nuts of Horror
by Stewart Horn
Six year old orphan Evan’s life is turned upside down when a mysterious stranger who calls himself Rook abducts him, killing his foster parents in the process. But Rook is more than he seems and, as we discover, Evan is no ordinary child.
The novel follows their adventures as the strange pair evade their enemies, both worldly and supernatural, and Evan gradually discovers the truth about Rook’s nature, and his own. It’s a novel that explores responsibility, betrayal, friendship, sacrifice, redemption and the impossibility of making truly moral decisions.
The supernaturally gifted child has been a trope in horror fiction and movies for decades now and , post Stephen King, has become annoyingly ubiquitous. The half human killer tortured by conscience is another overused trope, and a mismatched couple finding commonality and becoming friends through adversity is the stuff of a thousand tedious buddy movies. Having angels as bad guys is becoming a tired cliché too. So there were lots of reasons for me to dislike this book.
But even if there isn’t much terribly original here, Michell’s writing, characterisation and pacing are strong enough to make the book an enjoyable read. The central relationship is engaging, the action relentless, the carnage gleeful. We care enough about Evan and Rook that the inevitable confrontation with their enemies is genuinely tense, and the final scene surprisingly moving. The incidental characters are drawn with a lot of care, especially considering their average life expectancy.
This is an accomplished debut, and I think Stephen Michell is a name to watch.
When six year-old Evan is kidnapped from his foster home, he is dragged into a world of shadows, monsters, and fire. At first, all Evan can think about is how to escape from his violent captor, a man who calls himself Rook; but Evan quickly learns that Rook is the only person with the power to protect him against a host of more horrible dangers. As Rook's true nature is revealed through mysterious, magical acts, Evan must wonder if Rook is indeed a person or rather a monster himself.
Pursued across the wintery Southern Ontario countryside, with the baying of police dogs at their heels and deeper horrors lurking in the woods, the orphan boy and the roguish man begin to understand each other. Evan admits that he also has mysterious, magical powers, but doesn't know how to control them. Rook becomes more intrigued with the boy, and Evan, a child that has never felt at home, begins to believe in a place where he belongs--with Rook.