Tuesday, 31 January 2012

King Crow - Michael Stewart

King Crow by Michael Stewart is definitely a book I'll be reading again. Only good books are worth re-reading, and this is a good book. It's also a hard book to review without giving too much away, but it's vital to read this book without knowing what's coming - even if, by the middle of the book, you find yourself dreading what might be coming...

You know from the start that the central character, Paul Cooper, is a lonely boy, introverted and inhabiting a world of his own on quite a profound level. Even engaging with the reader, he's a slippery character, hiding behind his obsession about birds right from the first line:

'When I look at people, I wonder what sort of birds they are.'

He distances himself from other people in every way he can, even introducing himself by his surname, and not because he's from an upper class public school either. Far from it. Despite his determination to distance himself from the world he finds himself in, he draws your sympathy from the start, even though (or perhaps because) Paul is a strange mixture of dispassionate observation and fear, and uses one to hide from the other. He is so afraid of the world that he literally switches his mind to thinking of the facts he knows about the feathered creatures he is so obsessed with as a means not just of emotional escape, but trying to 'block out' the world and physically hide in his thoughts. As though he believes that if he thinks about birds, people won't see him - like a small child who thinks you can't see him if he puts his hands over his eyes:

‘Then he says to me, - Yeah? Want some, new boy?
I feel his breath on my face. Focus on his blazer, a darkening sky. The finches fly off and are replaced by starlings, triangular wings, twisting and soaring, a swirling black cloud […] Remember to breathe. Think about starlings. Think.’

When he meets Ashley, a boy who is the opposite of Paul with his cool confidence, you know everything is about to change. This is where I have to tread carefully as Paul's story needs to be read to really appreciate this excellent book.
Stewart's prose is somehow deceptively simple and yet beautifully poetic, and is often in the immediacy of present tense, and the story unfolds through a character depicted with a rare psychological truth. Paul hides behind shrugs and his quest to see ravens as he observes the world and his own story as it unfolds, and that's the key way the magic of this book works for me.
Stewart manages to convey Paul's matter-of-fact observation of the world he inhabits and the often shocking events in beautifully poetic prose to reveal the story, and interweaves Paul's experience of nature and particularly his constant sliding into his obsessively ornithological world to create a refreshingly different book, and an intensely poetic and compelling one.

This is a compelling read, and even if you see what's coming, you'll want to read this book again.


King Crow by Michael Stewart is available in all good libraries and bookshops, in paperback and Kindle, and from Amazon.

Michael Stewart is from Salford and now lives in Yorkshire and has won several awards. King Crow is his debut novel and won the Not The Booker Prize 2011. You can find out more about Michael Stewart here.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Good News!

Good news! The first full draft of the second book in the Witherstone trilogy, The Hunt Begins, is now FINISHED!

Hold fire before you email me to ask when it's going to be published though... it took me several months to redraft and edit Witherstone before it was ready to publish, so patience,  good readers, patience.

I'll keep you posted...!

And if you haven't read Witherstone yet, Amazon have new stocks of the paperback just in, and the Kindle edition has been reduced to £3.93 !

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Amazing Stuff

I love research.

Researching 17th Century road routes in England has thrown up some absolutely fabulous hand-drawn maps - the first "road atlas" of Britain in fact. Beautiful!

Made by a gentleman by the name of John Ogilby who was apparently a Scottish translator and "impresario", and who according to the maps themeselves became 'His Ma.ties Cosmographer' or what we would now call a cartographer, the maps are in the form of an unravelling scroll with a linear journey along the designated road.

And they have wonderful details, such as 'bad road', and 'Stone bridge 2 arches & Brook', and an unmistakable diagram outside some towns with the word 'Gallowes' beside it. *shudder*

(And yes, I am pressing on apace with the second book in the Witherstone trilogy, The Hunt Begins...)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Starting the New Year on a High!

Ending 2011 on a high!

The Amazon sales rankings for the Kindle edition of Witherstone have climbed from the lowest starting point of #652,853 to the dizzy heights of #67,013 in November and ending 2011 with the happy ranking of #82,086 !!! A climb of between 585,840 and 570,867 places!

Dizzy heights, people, dizzy heights!