Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 5 stars Series: standalone
For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world… and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing.
There’s someone else who shares his powers. It’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This book was utterly stunning – a strong contender for my best books read in 2021 list (the only reason it would be on there is if H. G. Parry’s 2021 release, A RADICAL ACT OF FREE MAGIC, manages to top it, given I have a one book per author rule for the list.)
THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP is a book that demands to sipped, not devoured. It wanted to be read in small chunks, partly to savour it and partly because it needed time to rest and be unpacked. Usually, it’s only books I’m struggling with that take me time to read, but this time I desperately wanted to keep reading, return to the story, but I couldn’t because it felt wrong to down it in one go. (As I get uneasy if I’m not reading when I’m not actively doing something because it’s my holiday, I read a lot of eARCs around this book. So that was at least good for getting some control over that!)
At its heart, this book is about brothers and their incredibly complicated relationship. It was so well drawn, and much of the reason I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to know how they’d deal with all the frictions of their past and present. It’s not that they don’t love each other – they do, absolutely – but that siblings never have a simple love, there’s just too much time together for that.
Among the clever, engrossing mystery of a plot, their relationship bound it together, the constant awareness that the tensions would bubble over and somehow they’d have to get back as they couldn’t manage alone.
Rob is the narrator (there are the odd chapter from the perspectives of Millie, a fictional character, and Lydia, Rob’s girlfriend, but the bulk of the book is from him), and yet, in many ways, the main character of the book is Charley. It’s so interesting to see the main character through the eyes of his brother. Rob is so well defined, but it really brings out his feelings of his life often being taken over by his brother that he is not even the main character in the book he is telling. He is not the main character in his own life.
Because of copyright laws and the themes of the book, all the characters in this book are from the classics (other than one invented character). Most are Dickens characters, which builds into the plot. Thank to GCSE English, I hate Dickens. I am sure there are many, many references that slipped me by in the book – and the literary criticism hypotheses Charley comes out with were as bewildering to me as they were to Rob, something that only made me empathise with him more.
Because Rob was in a similar boat to me, it did not matter that I didn’t know the books being talked about (particularly David Copperfield, the book at the heart of the story). If anything, it made it so much more engrossing because I was so like Rob – clueless and yet deeply jealous of Charley’s knowledge and skill. If anything, I now want to try and read David Copperfield (the last Dickens I tried to read).
Read my reviews of other books by H. G. Parry:
The Shadow Histories: