Monday, 22 August 2011

REVIEW: Wickedness by Deborah White

Wickedness by Deborah White. 

This book is historical fiction with a twist. Twistorical fiction. The historical bit involves Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and the diary of a girl who lives in 17th-century plague-time London (which is a time in history I find really fascinating - it is somewhere I would certainly like to time travel to, if that wouldn't involve probably dying horrifically...)* The twistorical bit involves a prophecy, some ancient spells and an unsettling gentlemen who seems to have been alive for hundreds of years...

Wickedness is about two girls - Claire and Margrat, who, although they live 350 years apart, are united by blood and by a prophecy. Claire is 14, has flame red hair and lives in 2011. After her grandma, who spent her life studying the plague, dies, Claire comes across some unusual objects, including a casket engraved with hieroglyphics and the diary of a Margrat, a 14-year-old girl with flame red hair who lived in London in 1665. The two girls' stories unfold alongside each other and begin to intertwine. Both see epidemics of a strange illness taking hold in London around the same time they come across a ring engraved with a hieroglyphic symbol. Both are pursued by a creepy, yet strangely charismatic, man who believes they hold the key to a prophecy.

The man and his maniacal obsession with the prophecy is the driving force of the book. His thirst for the ultimate knowledge begins to compel and tempt the characters around him. He seems almost like the devil - dangerous precisely because he is attractive. (Anyone who's read Paradise Lost will be with me on this one - Satan is way hotter than Jesus). The dual narrative of Claire in 2011 and Margrat's diary gives you two distinct voices and stories to follow and you can see how the events in the diary affect the action unfolding in the present. I liked the way that the two strands were brought together by the character of the man, and by significant objects and themes that surfaced in both stories.

Seeing both stories at the same time makes you want to try and piece together the secret at the heart of the book and guess what's going to happen - but the book stays one step ahead until the very end. Add in plague-time London and an egyptian mummy and you've got yourself a decidely creepy historical fantasy thriller.

Rating: **** Top notch twistorical fiction.

If you like this book, read: The Merrybegot by Julie Hearn, White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

*If I did travel to plague time I could probably just hang out with someone rich, like Samuel Pepys, who managed not to die. Although Pepys was known to be a bit gropey. I wouldn't want to escape the plague only to be groped by a man in a dodgy wig. Perhaps I'd live in his house, but pretend I did have the plague to keep him away. Although he probably wouldn't want a diseased person living in his house... ah, it's tricky, this time travelling lark!


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