Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Set in Stone by Linda Newbury

Author: Linda Newbury
ISBN # 0385607482

Publisher: David Fickling Books

1st Published: 2006

358 pages

"To handle stone is to handle the stuff of life and death, of time and change, the mysteries of the Earth itself..."

Fourwinds, a country house close to the South Downs, is the pride of its owner, wealthy widower Ernest Farrow. Samuel Godwin, a gullible young artist employed by Farrow as painter and tutor, is irrevocably drawn into the lives of the three young women at Fourwinds: demure Juliana; Charlotte Agnew, governess and companion, who reveals little of her thoughts and aspirations; and Marianne, the younger daughter, passionate,
wilful and unpredictable. Intrigued by Marianne to the point of obsession, Samuel little suspects how thoroughly he is being manipulated.

It's not only the people who fascinate. Samuel is equally entranced by the house itself: Fourwinds; beautifully designed and furnished in Arts and Crafts style, a house to delight and surprise with the attention paid to every detail. What, though, can account for the absence of the West Wind carving, and the disappearance of its creator, the gifted sculptor Gideon Waring, whose name must never be mentioned in Mr. Farrow's hearing? Awed by Waring's skill, Samuel longs to meet him and see more of his work. But in doing so, he uncovers secrets that are both horrifying and dangerous to all.

Set in Stone is
incredibly intense and deals with some very adult themes (which are dealt with tactfully and sympathetically) therefore it's aimed more at the young adult market rather than younger teens. Very well-written and told from the viewpoint of two characters looking in at the family on the brink of madness that employs them. It's incredibly heady stuff! Love and possession; art and immortality; convention and defiance; ambition and desire: There’s mystery and drama in equal measures which makes for a winning combination, with strong characters, clever plot twists and shocking revelations.

Very highly recommended.

Rating: 9

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

Author: Glen Duncan
ISBN # 0743220137
Publisher: Scribner
1st Published: 2002
262 pages

The end is nigh, and the Prince of Darkness has been given one last shot at redemption, if he can manage to live out a reasonably blameless life on earth. The Old Dealmaker negotiates a trial run - a month with all the delights of the flesh. (The flesh: slightly worn, one previous owner; a writer). But the experience of walking amongst us has more pratfalls and detours than Luce foresaw; instead of teaching us what it's like to be him, Lucifer finds himself beginning to understand what it's like to be human...

I, Lucifer is devilishly clever, fiendishly funny and angelically beautiful all at once. It’s so jam-packed with description I felt I was literally being bombarded by all that Lucifer experiences all at once, but its so wittily done that it just washed into me and became an integral part of the story. Deeply satirical, Duncan has created a version of the Great Adversary that I could really get on board with – I could sympathise with his predicament and understand the motives for his every move.

The style is light, witty and highly enjoyable – I whizzed through it at lightning pace and loved every roller-coater moment of it.

Rating: 8