Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bradbury Season: The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

As Colleen explains at Chasing Ray, it's Bradbury Season: a time of possibility.

For Bradbury Season, I've chosen The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding. (library copy).

In the October 2006 issue of Bookslut, Collen Mondor wrote about Bradbury and October Country: "This is the time of year where the unexpected can take an ugly turn down alleyways and tunnels and your very own hallways and find its darkest corners."

What better example of the unexpected, the dark corners, than Alaizabel Cray?

The Plot:

Thaniel Fox, 17, is a wych-hunter in London, like his father before him. He's been trained since childhood, and he's good. He's hunting a particularly nasty wych-kin, the vampiric Cradlejack, when he discovers a beautiful girl, with no memory other than her name: Alaizabel Cray.

Thaniel tries to discover who she is, and where she comes from, and finds himself investigating a secret society, The Fraternity, that aims to take over London, and the world.

The Good:

One of my favorite books of all time. Alaizabel Cray is a wonderfully creepy horror story; it is complex, layered, logical.

Wooding excels at creating worlds that are layered and complex; I'm a bit impressed that he has so many standalones in a world of fantasy series. On the one hand, great to be read, knowing the end will be the end and not a cliffhanger. On the other, I'm impressed that he invests so much time in world and character building, yet then only uses those things for one book.

Alaizabel Cray is similar to our world; but not, just as the names (Alaizabel, Cathaline, Jerdiah) are oh-so-close to being familiar, yet, at the same time, are different, other, strange. There are references to a London bombed beyond recognition by Prussian airships; telephones; yet cobbled streets, and an Edwardian, if not Victorian, flair to the world. And then there is the wych-kin; it's a world where the Winchester boys would feel at home.

I loved how Alaizabel Cray is many types of books:

A horror story. The beautiful, mysterious Alaizabel bears a strange tattoo; her body is host to a two hundred old year wych; and Thaniel's world is full of wych-kin (monsters.) Wooding isn't content to say vampire, werewolf, and the like; instead we get Stitch-Face, a cradlejack, and real wolves prowling the city streets.

A mystery; not just, who is Alaizabel, but, also, what are the wych kin? For we find out that wych kin were nothing more than stories until 20 odd years ago, when the Prussians bombed. Are they a Prussian plot? Did bombings unearth long hidden monsters? Why are the wych kin here? How, into the world of science, did the world of the supernatural take hold?

A buddy story. We have Thaniel, and his mentor, Cathaline; and along the way, in true buddy adventure mode, they gather a group who helps investigate who Alaizabel is. The group ranges from beggars to police inspectors.

Most of all, what I love about Alaizabel Cray, is that it is about the power of belief. What it means to believe, in people and things. And, what it means for a reader: because for any story to work, the reader must believe it to be true. For the characters to be flesh and blood, and the plot believable, whether it's wych kin. Or puppies. And Wooding, in a world where the names are familiar, only not, makes a world that you believe in. Even as it scares you to death.

Links:
Round Up of participants at Chasing Ray, including:
Kelly at Big A little a on A Beasty Story, by Bill Martin Jr. and Steven Kellogg
Jackie at Interactive Reader on The Curse of the Rumbaughs
The Seven Imps take another look at Adam Rex and Frankenstein
Little Willow on some more Christopher Golden scary goodness
Betsy salutes the ABC Spookshow at Fuse Number 8
Kelly at Writing and Ruminating loves Neil Gaiman
Sarah looks at some Diana Wynne Jones awesomeness over at Finding Wonderland
And Tanita has some deep October thoughts on Octavia Butler's Kindred
Gwenda is also in on the fun at Shaken & Stirred with some thoughts on literary vampires.
(Image from Little Willow; links compiled by Colleen).

My review of Wooding's Storm Thief, which first appeared in The Edge of the Forest.
My review of Wooding's Poison.

2 comments:

Little Willow said...

I still haven't read this. I loved Poison so much that I have yet to allow myself to read another Wooding novel!

TadMack said...

I do love the idea that Bradbury Season is about possibilities -- I love the "What if..." of this one.

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