Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review: Candle Man: The Society of Dread by Glenn Dakin


When Theo defeated his old guardian, Dr Saint, in a fierce, fiery battle, he thought his enemies were routed and the bad old days were over for good. But now the terrible slithering, seething crelp are bubbling up from below ground to snatch people and harvest their bones. Deep beneath the city, an ancient force – one that could threaten even Theo the Candle Man’s power – is getting ready to burn, burn, burn. Twisted, charred, faceless Dr Pyre has a plan, and a secret that will shock Theo to the core. Theo will have to descend once more into the dark, slimy tunnels to fight strange creatures and ally with old enemies. Can the Candle Man find a way in the dark this time?

Back in November 2009, in the dark, early days of The Book Zone, I posted a review of the first book from Glenn Dakin featuring his young hero, and subtitled The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance. It was a book that I loved for its dark humour, fast pace and colourful characters, and I waited impatiently for the sequel. Unfortunately patience is not a virtue I possess in bucketfuls when it comes to books, and my willpower weakened to the point where I ordered the sequel from the US, as for some reason the books have been published over there some time before they are unleashed on the UK. I read it at a time when things were really busy at work and so I just never got around to writing a review, and then a copy of the UK paperback edition arrived from the generous people at Egmont, and has sat on my desk as a reminder to post that review ever since.

I have just re-read the sequel, subtitled The Society of Dread, so that it is fresh in my mind for writing this review, and please me when I say that it is just as good second time around. I loved this book, possibly even more than I loved the first in the series, as it has all the great elements of the first book plus more. More great characters. More horrible creatures. More dark, dark humour. And best of all, more of Theo, a main character with flaws, and one of the great underdogs of modern children's literature.

In preparation for writing this I also re-read my review of the first book in the series. At the time I wrote that I had struggled to get a feel for the place in which the story was set, and that I was a little confused about it. I wonder whether that was just the mood I was in at the time, as there was certainly none of that in this book, and the setting was this time a stand-out element of the story for me. If you haven't read the first book (you really should), the story is set in a modern day London, but there are many elements that give the reader a feeling that some of its characters are firmly rooted in the traditions of the Victorian era, and it certainly has the feel of some of the classic crime and adventure books from the beginning of the 20th Century. It is the kind of book that I would really love to see turned into a film, directed by the likes of Terry Gilliam or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, directors who would lavish care and attention on creating the perfect setting, down to the smallest detail. Although perhaps the scenes where Theo uses his powers might be a little too icky for this, so maybe an animated films by someone like Sylvain Chomet (creator of the totally brilliant Belleville Rendez-vous).

To tell you more about the plot than is mentioned in the publisher's blurb at the top of this post would be risking giving away spoilers from the first book, so instead you should read my review of that first book and then go out and get your hands on the book, in the knowledge that there is an even better sequel already waiting in the wings. If you have already read the first book then you probably don't need to read my waffling about the plot of the sequel anyway. What I will say is that the ending of The Society of Dread leaves us with a number of hints that suggest that there will hopefully be a third Candle Man book some time in the future, although I am not privy to when that may be. If I get any more information about this I will be sure to let you know.

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