Advent by James Treadwell
For centuries it has been locked away
Lost beneath the sea
Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight.
But now magic is rising to the world once more.
And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall.
No one will be there to meet him.
I approached Advent with some trepidation as a few of my colleagues had already read it and had very mixed feelings towards it. The general consensus of them, and other reviewers, is that Advent should be a young adult novel rather than adult. If you follow my blog in any way, you will know that the topic of target audiences has been something that seems to keep cropping up in my reviews of late. I think this probably has a lot to do with more adults reading young adult novels due to the trends of Twilight and the like. It seems clear now that the lines between adult and young adult fiction are becoming a little less defined nowadays, with more novels reaching out to both adult and teen readers than ever before. Advent is definitely one of those novels, but in my opinion, it goes from one extreme to the other, and never really decides what it wants to be. I’m certainly not saying it needs to be either adult or teen, but a few things need to give to allow it to become that crossover. Hopefully, this review will try and outline my reasons why.
First of all, the blurb tells you literally nothing. There is nothing to make it stand out amongst other fantasy novels of its kind, but it will probably still intrigue you like it did me. The story begins in 1537 when Johannes Faust, the greatest mage that ever lived, prepares to set sail for England. The next chapter takes us straight to Gavin, a young boy who has an invisible friend that no one will believe in. He is on a train, bound for Cornwall to visit his aunt, the only person who truly gives him the time of day. But once he arrives, he can’t find her anywhere. The chapters continue to alternate between the stories of Johannes Faust and Gavin, as the two slowly come together for a rather dramatic climax.
Once the story really got going, I was completely taken by surprise, and this is what I enjoyed the most about this novel. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away for fear of spoiling it for those of you who haven’t yet read it. You already know the basic plot from the blurb above, but if you want a little taste of what is to come then do read on. It’s really not much of a spoiler, but if you are the kind of reader who prefers to know nothing about the novel before reading it, then skip this paragraph! *Minor Spoiler* The way the story went right back into Greek mythology and the time of Helen of Troy, was very unexpected, and like I said the blurb really gives you no hint towards it. There are also mermaids, witches, magicians, hell-hounds, and a rather strange-looking bird. It’s obvious that Treadwell has been inspired by mythology and folklore and it is all beautifully portrayed and very intriguing. I almost wished the blurb would hint at a little more of these things, as I feel it may attract more readers and help make the novel stand out amongst others in the fantasy genre. These were the most exciting parts in the novel, and they really made me begin to appreciate Treadwell’s novel as being something a little different and unique.*End of Spoiler*
The first one-hundred pages or so are rather slow-going, I felt as though Treadwell could have written the same scenes within half the page numbers. The writing has a very traditional fantasy feel to it, and this will certainly appeal to some, and repel others. I was kind of somewhere in the middle. At times I found it to be beautiful and carefully considered, and other times I thought Treadwell was using too many words to describe the most trivial of events. I think Treadwell is a fine writer with a lot of talent and skill, and if you prefer a more detailed, slow pace in your prose then this will be the book for you. It’s slightly akin to Patrick Rothfuss and Tolkien in that sense but not quite as high a standard yet, but there is huge potential there without a doubt.
The thing about Treadwell’s writing that jarred with me most of all, was the mixture of it being a story about a young boy who discovers there is a lot more magic in the world than he could ever have imagined, but then being told in rather slow, detailed prose, often with the use of profanities. The swearing ruined it for me, and added nothing at all to the story. This is my problem with it being classed as teen. It just didn’t fit in with the tone of the story and if it wasn’t for this, I definitely would have felt comfortable recommending it to teens with a taste for the more literary fiction. But it’s almost as though Treadwell is trying a little too hard to make, what is essentially a children’s story, into an adult one, and he doesn’t quite pull it off.
I don’t mean to give Advent any kind of in-depth analysis, but I often approach my reviews from the point of view of a bookseller, and reviewer rather than just a reader. The reader in me will tell you how much she was actually quite impressed with the story as a whole, and was very much taken by surprise with the wonderful fantastical elements that come into play. It is a skilful novel, but it is not without its flaws, and that’s where the bookseller part of me comes in! You may be surprised to find me giving this novel such a high rating after all my rambling above, but in truth, Treadwell’s story is so enticingly beautiful that I can’t help but love it, for all its flaws. I see great potential in him as a writer and storyteller, and only hope that the flaws I have detailed here are ones that can be approached in his next book.
Advent is a wonderfully unique novel, but one that hasn’t quite found its place yet. I hope I have intrigued you rather than deterred you from reading it, as it really is something that deserves to be read. If you like traditional literary fantasy, this will undoubtedly appeal to you, and I feel it will most certainly invoke rather an interesting discussion or two! I’m very excited to see what will happen next in the trilogy, and to see how Gavin will cope with the new direction his life appears to be taking!
Advent is out now, published by Hodder & Stoughton. Thanks goes to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.