Friday 16 December 2011

Attention Grabber #8: The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

Attention Grabber is my weekly feature where I post what I think is a great opening paragraph to a book, the sort of opening that pulls young readers in and hooks them from the start.

This week's Grabber is from one of my favourite author's of the moment. I love Chris Wooding's Ketty Jay stories, but I first discovered his work through The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, one of my favourite books of the last decade. It is a glorious Gothic fantasy horror story set in an alternate London, with airships, demons and corruption at the highest level. The opening paragraphs mentioning an airship, London fog and hansom cabs give a really good feel for what is to come and had my interest piqued right from the start. I also love Chris Wooding's descriptive writing in these opening paragraphs - he has the ability to tap straight into my imagination so that I can really picture the scene he had created.

The airship lumbered low overhead, its long, lined belly a dull smear of silvery light in the fog as it reflected the gas lamps of the city beneath. The heavy, ponderous thrum of its engines reverberated through the streets of the Old Quarter, making the grimy windows of the tall, close-packed terraces murmur in complaint. Like some vast, half-seen beast, it passed over the maze of alleys and cobbled walks, too huge to consider the insignificant beings that travelled them - and finally it moved on, its engines fading to a dull hum, and then gradually to silence.

There was a chill in the air tonight, a cold nip that had crept in from the Thames and settled into the bones of London. And of course there was the fog, which laid itself over everything like a gossamer blanket and softened the glow of the black lamp-post to a haze. The fog came almost every night in autumn, as much a part of London as the hansom cabs that rattled around Piccadilly Circus or the stout Peelers that walked their beats north of the great river. Not to the south, though; not in the Old Quarter. That was the domain of the mad and the crooked and the things best left unthought of. The good people of the capital knew better than to remain there after the sun had dipped beneath the skyline; not if they valued their necks, anyway.

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