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Book Review – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy is not usually my thing; in fact I usually see something under that genre and instantly put it down because I can almost guarantee it’s not for me. But then there is Neil Gaiman. The man who defies definition because everything he does should really be labeled as ‘Awesome’. So when I finally got around to reading Neverwhere at the Fiance’s not so gentle prodding, I had mixed feelings. I was 97% sure it would be great, but that tiny 3% really did worry me.
I shouldn’t have worried though.
Neverwhere is about Richard Mayhew, a regular human living in London and working a nondescript job at an office. He has a fiancé, a decent apartment and in general a nice life.
It’s also about Door, a woman on the run from dangerous people who have already killed her family and are now coming after her. These two meet one night when Door falls through a blank wall, bleeding profusely and Richard takes her home hoping to help. Helps patch her up, has a run in with some sinister men and she leaves the next day. Richard hopes that it is the end of the excitement but the next day, taxis won’t stop for him, there’s no job waiting for him at his office and he seems to have vanished from the world that he knows. The only place he can turn to is the strange world known as London Below. He ends up accompanying Door and her companions on a journey to find out why her family is dead and whether or not revenge is in order.
I read this book in about 3 days, devouring the pages every chance I could get. The story has a sense of urgency, as though there is danger around every corner. 50 pages in I found myself reading as fast as I could to find out what happened next. The characters are unforgettable, each one interesting enough to deserve their own tale. There is the Marquis De Carabas, a mysterious man with a penchant for trouble and exceptional skill with navigating the world of London Below. Hunter, a woman with fearsome skills in battle and you guessed it, hunting. My personal favorite side character is Old Bailey, an elderly man with a cart who deals in birds and information. All of them feel real and fully developed, almost as though you might have seen them on the other side of the street while walking to the bus stop.
The story twists and turns and takes a journey that is both unexpected but somehow familiar. I found myself trying to guess where things would lead but having no idea beyond the next few pages. The only time I felt confident and turned out to be right was with the ending, but honestly the book could not have ended any other way without it being a total mess.
While it is a fairy story, with fantastical people and characters out of legends it most certainly not a children’s story. Richard is forced to confront his own fears and question whether or not he is slowly going mad. People die horribly in graphic ways and there is no guarantee of salvation or safety at the end of the journey. But then, that’s why it’s such an amazing story. If you haven’t read Neverwhere and have the least bit of interest in fantasy, sci-fi or speculative fiction go and get yourself a copy right now and read it. You will be happy you did.

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