Friday 19 February 2010

Review: Demon Strike by Andrew Newbound

Demons from the Dark Dimension pour through a portal in the wall of Pittingham Manor, ready to strike!

Into this chaos stumble two twelve-year-old ghost-busters: psychic Alannah Malarra and burglar Wortley Flint. Up until now, they've only ever hunted tame, trasure-hoarding ghosts, but this is something else.

Their only hope is a winged A.N.G.E.L police patrol on a routine earth-monitoring mission. The future of the world is at stake...

The first thing you notice about Demon Strike is its fantastic cover featuring a particularly gruesome looking demon; it has a lenticular panel that enables the facial experssion of the demon to change as you move the book. I won't say any more, get this book and have a look for yourself.

So is the inside as good as the outside? I will be honest and say it took me a few chapters to get into the book. In Chapter 2 we are introduced to A.N.G.E.L. Trooper Flhi Swift, soon to be promoted to Inspectre (yup... that's how it is spelt in the book), and I was initially worried that this character sounded very similar to Holly Short, the LEPrecon heroine of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books. And yes, there are similarities, but only because both books have gutsy non-human heroines who like to take risks and who don't always play by the rule-book (in Flhi Swift's case - it is more a case of "what rulebook?" as she seems to have broken every A.N.G.E.L. rule by the end of the story).

However, Flhi Swift is not the story's sole main character - she has to share this honour with ghost-hunting psychic Alannah Malarra. Alannah is the daughter of famed (and currently missing in action) psychics Ben and Sadie Malarra. However, where her parents hunted ghosts for altruistic reasons, Alannah's motives initially seem far more mercenary - she knows that ghosts only remain on earth if they have something precious worth staying for; thus where there is a ghost, there must also be treasure. With this in mind she has begin to amass a small fortune, although we soon discover that she intends to use this treasure to fund the search for her missing parents.

Alannah is a strong character who misses her parents deeply. She is discovering psychic powers that she does not understand fully, and this is a constant reminder of her parents, who had started to train her before they disappeared. She would be a very lonely girl were it not for her closest friend, the fantastically named Wortley Flint, Alannah's partner in crime, a twelve-year-old boy with a talent for breaking into houses. Wortley is the perfect sidekick, and provides many of the laughs in the story as he hates the whole ghosthunting aspect of their work and would much rather be sat in the safety of his own home. In fact, I was chuckling to myself before I had even reached the end of the third page as a result of Wortley's unfortunate run-in with a pair of hyenas. The banter between these two is another fine aspect of this book; they are constantly bickering but there is always an underlying note of affection in this, as they genuinely care for each other. This becomes even more apparent as they take it in turns to face mortal danger, with the other coming to the rescue in some way or other.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny in places, but it also has many moments of extreme tension and fast-paced action. I said it took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I had it became another book that I wanted to complete in one sitting. The quieter, poignant moments where Alannah is missing her parents, or is fearing over the safety of her friend, are also an important element to the story as they help the reader relate to her character more. Thus, when she is in peril, we become even more fearful for her safety.

Despite only mentioning three characters in this review so far, the story hosts a wealth of colourful secondary characters, both good and evil (and some a little in-between). Each one adds to the story in their own little (or big) way, and the dialogue is always well written and believable. I believe this book is intended to be the first in a new series of A.N.G.E.L. Patrol books and I hope we will see many of these characters again in future books. Whenever this may be, I will be at the front of the queue to get my hands on a sequel.

Demon Strike is due to be published by Chicken House on 1st March, but Amazon already have copies so you may spot one on the shelves in stores a little early too. I would suggest it is best suited to the 9-12 age group, although older readres may also find it an enjoyable read. You can also find out a little more about Andrew Newbound and Alannah, as well as read the opening chapter, at the Go Away Ghosts website.