Wednesday 10 February 2010

Review: Lex Trent versus The Gods by Alex Bell

Law student Lex Trent’s world is inhabited by fearsome magicians, ageing crones and a menagerie of Gods and Goddesses. And while Lex is seemingly dedicated to his legal studies he’s always enjoyed a challenge – which is why he leads a double life as the notorious cat burglar ‘The Shadowman’ who has been (luckily) evading capture for years.

But Lex’s luck is about to run out, because the Goddess of Fortune has selected him to be her player in the highly dangerous Games. Losing is not an option for Lex (particularly as it so often involves dying) but can he really win each of the perilous rounds? Given that the reward for doing so is money, fame and glory – all things that Lex is quite keen on – he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure he will… and he’s certainly got good experience of cheating.

I am not a huge fan of fantasy, but I really cannot work out why. I love The Lord of the Rings - it is one of my all time favourite books, but other supposedly excellent fantasy works just don't interest me. Even Terry Pratchett! There... I've said it, and I know that will upset a lot of people. Don't get me wrong - I have read some of his books, and enjoyed reading them, but I don't sit there waiting for the next book to be published, and I can probably count on one hand the number of Pratchett books I have read. So, having been sent a copy by the nice people at Headline, it was with no small degree of trepidation that I opened this supposedly brilliant YA fantasy book that one reviewer had already likened to this aforementioned comedy/fantasy author. Would this be the first scathing review on this blog?

And the answer is..... no! In fact, far from it. I loved this book, despite it being a fantasy story, and the main reason is the fantastic titular character that Alex Bell has created. Lex Trent is the ultimate anti-hero - I went from cheering him on to despising the depths to which he would stoop to fulfil his own selfish and dishonest desires. Of course, because of Lex being such a scoundrel, boys will love this book; they will want to be like Lex, so should we be worried that we might have an increase in mischievous behaviour in schools should this book gain the popularity is deserves?

As well as the brilliant development of Lex's character (and that of the other principle characters in the story), this book really stands out because of the author's fantastic imagination - she has created a fantasy world where the Gods have their own churches, take human form to interact with their mortal subjects and where these very same Gods delight in The Games, where they play with humans as if they were pieces on a chess board. In fact, refuse to take part in The Games and this is exactly how you may find yourself for the rest of eternity. In this fantasy world we also find many mythical creatures, ships that fly above the waves rather than through them, and incredibly, a world split in two, with the two halves joined by ladders of all things!

Some boys may need a little patience as they start this book as it takes a while to get going. The opening chapters are used to set the scene and introduce us to Lex, but once the action kicks in they will certainly feel rewarded for their perseverance as from this moment the pace becomes breathless, with Lex going from one nail-biting escapade or swindle to the next with barely a pause. Lex Trent versus The Gods is published by Headline and is in stores now.

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