Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: The Court Painter's Apprentice by Richard Knight

'Paint what you see, Johann; not what you think you see.' This is the advice that Hugo, master portrait painter, gives to his protege, Johann. But Johann's talent for painting the truth runs deeper than anyone can ever imagine. Johann soon discovers how changing the portraits he paints, can change the lives of his subjects. But with the power to bring good fortune to those around him, Johann is soon tempted to change his own...

I quite often find that small independent publishers publish some great stories that fall short because of the quality of the editing. This is most often simply down to manpower issues – less staff means less time to edit as thoroughly as might happen with one of the majors. This is MOST DEFINITELY NOT the case with Catnip Publishing – every one of their books that I have read so far has been a little gem in one way or another, both as a story and in the quality of its editing. Catnip really know their stuff, and most importantly of all they know what makes a good story that will engage a young reader. Great books from Catnip that you may have heard mentioned on The Book Zone or elsewhere include Edwin Spencer: Mission Improbable by JD Irwin, Clash by Colin Mulhern, and The Dead Ways by Christopher Edge. Now you can add The Court Painter’s Apprentice by Richard Knight to that list.

The Court Painter’s Apprentice is a great example of quality rather than quantity. My proof copy weighed in at only 175 pages, and yet the story it contains is not missing any of the key elements one would expect in a book for the 9+ age group: a gripping plot; an intriguing and original premise (the concept of being able to change a person’s destiny and character by making subtle changes to a painting of them); an element of horror that will send chills down the reader’s spine; a handful of great characters who are written in such a way that the story, however fantastic, is completely believable; and a cracking, mysterious twist towards the end.

This is the perfect book for all young readers who like a good mystery story, but especially for those who enjoy historical fiction or who are developing an interest in art and paintings. However, its appeal is not, I believe, solely restricted to middle grade readers as I think it holds something for everyone. Sometimes when I am reading a book written for children or Young Adults, and I spot things that do not appeal to me as an adult, I have to remind myself that I need to look at the story as if I were a member of the target market. With this book I never had to make this mental shift, and I feel it has great cross-generational appeal.

My thanks go to the wonderful people at Catnip for sending a copy of this book to review.

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