Thursday, 30 April 2009

Charlie Bone and the Shadow of Badlock – Jenny Nimmo

I am a great fan of the Charlie Bone books. This latest instalment does not disappoint. It contains the same mix of humour and menace, magic and mayhem, as the other books; draws us further into the story and deeper into the lives of those involved; and has some very scary moments as well. Indeed, there were times I had to put the book down because I was so worried for the characters – something I have not done since I was a child.

On the surface, the Charlie Bone books sound familiar. Magically endowed child attends school for similarly gifted children and fights evil. It is a situation that has been used by a number of writers over the years, but for me Jenny Nimmo ranks with Diana Wynne Jones as the best. For one thing, Jenny Nimmo can write. Characters are deftly drawn through their reactions and relationships. Events whiz along at just the right pace – fast enough to keep a young person’s interest yet not so fast as to sacrifice detail and depth. And there is a consistent and unifying atmosphere to the books that helps to create a world that is real and fantastical at one and the same time.

There is also a lightness of touch to the books. They may become dark in places (the strained atmosphere in the house where Charlie lives is quite claustrophobic; the evil characters are extremely unpleasant and ruthless), but there is an underlying gentleness and sense of fun and love that redeems what could otherwise be an unremittingly depressing tale.

I’m not going to discuss the plot in any way beyond saying that Charlie uses his particular endowment to help rescue one of his ancestors. Friends are won and lost, there is a frightening battle, some truly creepy events, and a poignant reunion. As for the rest… if you haven’t read these books, you really need to get a copy of the first one (Midnight for Charlie Bone) and start there.