Friday, June 3, 2011

This month’s book: The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

hauntingThis is a very creepy book. It's set in London in what appears to be the 19th century, but none of the events described in the story have any real place in history. In this parallel London, the city was bombed and nearly destroyed by a German airship fleet, and in the ensuing years becomes overrun by wych-kin, supernatural monsters that prey on human beings. The only protection comes from wych-hunters who use ancient rituals to track them and kill them. Thaniel Fox is a 17-year-old wych-hunter who learned the craft from his father, and then his mentor, Cathaline. The book opens with Thaniel chasing a Cradlejack (much more dangerous than it sounds: it's like a vampire that preys on babies) into an abandoned building where he stumbles across a crazed young woman who attacks him and then collapses. He takes her home, and with Cathaline's help, tries to unravel her mystery. The only thing she remembers is her name: Alaizabel Cray. Cathaline surrounds her room with talismans to ward off any evil pursuers, but Alaizabel insists that during the night something cold, wet and horrible tried to get into her room, even though no one else heard or felt anything. Is she insane or is something really trying to get her? Thaniel and Cathaline soon realize that the girl they saved is the key to a conspiracy that could bring the ultimate evil into the world. Along the way, they join forces with the vagrants, pickpockets and other unsavory people who inhabit the Old Quarter, an area of London most people avoid. Besides the wych-kin and wolves that inhabit the Old Quarter, there's also the serial killer Stitch-face, clearly modelled on Jack the Ripper. This is a real page-turner, but don't read it unless you have a strong stomach for gore. Review by Stacy Church