Sixteen-year-old Lucas Swain becomes intrigued by the urn of ashes left in a cab office. Convinced that its occupant -- Violet Park -- is communicating with him, he contrives to gain possession of the urn, little realising that his quest will take him on a voyage of self-discovery and identity, forcing him to finally confront what happened to his absent (and possibly dead) father. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
I completely adored this book. And what makes it all the more fantastic it that I wasn't expecting brilliance on this level. I was expecting a good read, yes. The only previous Jenny Valentine I'd read was the rather good 'The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight'. I enjoyed it, yes. It was a clever, taught little mystery, intelligently written, with a convincing voice. BUT I had a few niggles with certain aspects and this cast a little bit of a downer on it all.
When I read the synopsis for this, I wasn't desperate to rip it from the shelves and devour there and then. (Although, to be fair, only a couple of books have has this effect on me thus far.) I was expecting quaint, twee adolescent learns valuable life lessons through talking to/learning about a dead lady, blah, blah, blah.
What I got, however, was an ingenious, skillfully layered, revealing only teeny tiny nuggets of information at precisely the right times. I did not have a bloody clue where this one was going, I just prayed that the build up would have a satisfying payout. And I was NOT disappointed. This plot is so bloody clever, it should be sparring with Stephen Fry. Even when I thought I knew what the hell was going on, it pulled another masterstroke and I was left sitting there with my mouth wide open in awe and wonder.
All the characters were just wonderful. As with Cassiel Roadnight, Valentine has given us an authentic male protagonist. The relationships were very convincing, particularly that between Lucas and his mother. And I loved Lucas's Nan. I had the image of Catherine Tate's sweary Nan every time she cropped up - very funny.
Only some very, very minor quibbles. Quibblettes, if you will. I would have liked a bit more of Lucas interacting with love interest, Martha. There exchanges rang a very truthful note, and for purely selfish reasons, I wanted just a little bit more. Also, I know this sounds a bit odd, considering the book was essentially all about her, but I would have enjoyed a little bit more Violet. Her appearances were too brief and felt a little rushed. Just needed a little bit MORE, because it was all so damn good and I'm greedy like that.
A beautiful depiction about how past events an cast a dark shadow over lives and how it can feel impossible to pull away from them, so the only way of coping is to bask in it and drink it in.
A fine, fine book.