Hello Humans! We’re all familiar, I would think, with the concept of ‘a book-lover’s book’. These emerge fairly frequently onto bookshop shelves, almost always with gorgeous covers and exclusive editions to tempt us bookworms into parting with our hard-earned cash. More often than not I end up feeling a little disappointed by books like these, as they tend to be conceptually strong but poor in execution, or they feel somewhat vapid – ‘you like books so you’ll like this so I don’t have to try’. I’m delighted to say that this is not the case for The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep. This is one of the few books I’m comfortable recommending as a ‘book lover’s book’.
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.
One of the many things I loved about this book was the way that the author creates different settings throughout the story. It’s a tall order to superimpose an interpretation of Dickensian London onto modern New Zealand but Parry not only pulls it off but does it exceptionally. Now that I read a lot more, I don’t get that sensation of falling through the pages of a book nearly as much as I used to, so when I find it I savour every moment. I toppled through these pages into academic offices, cosy suburban homes and cobbled fantastical streets filled with roaming copies of Mr Darcy (someone’s dream I’m sure). The description and ‘scene-setting’ is such that you don’t notice it while it is happening, but it gives you such a good mental picture. Honestly, writing this I want to fall right back in again.
I was wary at first, reading a book with not one but two male protagonists – normally a huge no for me. But in this case, I think Parry crafts two characters who are genuinely enjoyable to read. I won’t get into the relationship between Charles and Rob, because to really talk about it I’ll need to get spoilery, but it was really pleasant to read a book with two brothers who, for the most part, really care about each other. In the world of fantasy fiction, more often than not brothers are spending most of their time trying to kill one another – so this was some welcome relief.
The only possible character critique I would make is that I would have liked it if Robert’s wife had a little more substance – made even more apparent by the fact that I can’t actually remember her name… She’s still a good character, I would have just liked her to be a tad more fleshed out.
I did adore the character of Millie – who I think you’ll have to discover for yourself when you read this. She captured my imagination and my heart and I would happily read 100 more books just about Millie please and thankyou.
You also get to meet a host of characters from classic fiction – ever wondered what it would be like if Heathcliffe met Dorian Gray? Well now you have – and you can find out in this book!
One thing I particularly liked about this book is how it was constantly developing the way the magic worked. Initially, the assumption is that Charles brings out characters from books based on his literary analysis of those characters. Again, I won’t spoil things but I will say that this is a book all about discovery and interpretation, and the book doesn’t get bogged down in rigidity and regulation.
I find it hard to reconcile the opening chapters of this book with the way that it ends – but it’s a testament to just how amazing the writing is that I didn’t even blink when I was reading it. This book takes you on an amazingly well-planned journey, you reach the ending because that’s obviously where you were heading the whole time. I just thought it was wonderful and this has gone straight on my ‘re-read when I have time’ list.
Overall, I thought this book was wonderful and I’m going to be recommending it to pretty much everyone I know. I read this digitally and now I need to obtain a physical copy I can lend out!
My rating: 5/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep Publishes January 23rd!
What say you? Will you be reading this? Which fictional character do you wish you could meet?