The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath (The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart Esq., #1) by Ishbelle Bee

Received from NetGalley for review.

I’m not sure if I understand fear. I do not really know what it is anymore. And yet I know I should be afraid. I know what it smells like. It’s the wolf in all those fairy stories Goliath read me. It’s Jack the Ripper. It’s the dark hole in that old woman’s mouth. It’s all around me. I am in the painting. I am in the red world.

Dark and delicious. Devious and tricksy. Not what it seems. All thoughts that were running through my head as I read The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath. It was not what I expected at all but that certainly isn’t a bad thing. There is no denying that this is a rather strange book – it follows multiple plotlines and characters, goes all over the place in terms of time, and slowly becomes darker and more twisted the further you venture into it, but I loved it. I’ve come to realise that I love a strange, winding tale, one where things don’t always make sense and you aren’t always sure what is happening.

The basis of the story is that a young girl, Mirror, and her guardian, Goliath, have returned to England from Egypt to try and find out answers – what happened to Mirror when she was shoved into an unusual clock by her mad Grandfather? The Lord of the Underworld, Mr. Fingers, who wants Mirror more than anything, sends John Loveheart (his sort-of adopted son and fan of heart embroidered clothing) after her, and a winding tale begins. It sound fairly simple when described like that, in reality it is anything but. Despite being a fairly short novel, Bee manages to skilfully introduce and develop a host of characters who all link together in peculiar ways; from a man who kills children for their souls, to a fairy tale writer, to an archaeologist, from London to Egypt and back again, everything is intrinsically linked and vital to the story.

It is a rather dark story, based in a world full of fairy tales, folklore, and nightmares – demons, murderers of various kinds, cannibals, and the criminally insane make up the majority of the characters we meet, but there is also lightness in the characters of Mirror, Goliath, Loveheart (surprisingly), and Inspector White, without them being pure and angelic. I found myself riveted by Loveheart, who seemed like a demonic Mad Hatter with a good heart hidden amongst the madness and murder, and his chapters were hilarious to read. Mirror was a surprisingly minor character, considering the novel focused on Mr. Fingers trying to find her and Goliath trying to keep her safe, but I found myself rooting for her immediately. It’s the story that Bee builds around those secondary characters (of which there are many) that is the most fascinating to read, though, and I was riveted from start to finish.

I know this story won’t work for everyone without even reading any other reviews; it is a strange story which doesn’t always makes sense, as well as being dark in content and potentially confusing in its narrative structure. But, if you enjoy the weird and wonderful, I would encourage you to read this book and become lost in its madness and magic.

Read: October 24th 2016

4/5 stars

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