Finders Keepers – Stephen King

“Wake up, genius.”

I read and reviewed the first book of the Bill Hodges trilogy recently, finding it readable but not spectacular. I’ve ended up giving the new, middle book – Finders Keepers – the same rating, but in truth I liked it more.

Two things improved the read for me: the first is that the storyline is slightly less predictable – do I mean predictable? Hmm. Less pedestrian, then. The second is that the subject matter is one I could really get behind: a hidden trove of writing, new books in a beloved series, previously unpublished. It’s enough to set the keen bibliophile to drooling – and in a few cases, enough to drive them to a little more ­extreme behaviour…!

Flitting between two timelines (1978 and 2010-2014), the first half of the book covers the discovery of and subsequent misadventures with this Amazing Book by two very different characters, and yet each sharing the obsession with the new work.I did enjoy the way the entwining plots were handled, but while one of the characters is nicely rounded out as human, the other is a rather one dimensional nutcase – increasingly so as the book goes on.

Interestingly, the returning characters don’t appear until the second part of the book – and that’s great. It means that you can get immersed in the new story and new characters, rather than making the emphasis on the returning cast. Indeed, I’d suggest that they get a slightly short shrift if you haven’t read the first book to fully understand where Bill, Holly, and Jerome are coming from.

Another mild disappointment is the reference back to Mr Mercedes – the book, and the character. Towards the end, it seems like Mr King couldn’t resist throwing in a spooky, supernatural element after all. I presume that’s going to be the plot of the third in the trilogy, and I can’t say I’m now super-keen to read it.

Overall: you should probably read Mr Mercedes first, as there’s a lot of background. If you don’t mind enjoy that, then this is a slightly better story, still easily digested, if nothing ‘wow’ (in my humble opinion!). It may, however, leave you wanting to read the (fictional) book described in this book!

…every plot stood on an idea.

Hardback: 370 pages
First published: 2015
Read from 1st-2nd August 2015

My rating: 6/10 – still not jumping up and down about it, but it was an engrossing enough storyline that, yes, I did devour it in 2 days!

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A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.”

Victoria Schwab usually writes YA, and I think it shows here – this isn’t YA, but it’s refreshingly light for a fantasy novel. There are sequels planned, but you can also feel satisfied with the story told over these 400 pages.

This bookverse has four different worlds, each with their own version of London and their own level of magic. Kell, one of the few remaining people with the necessary magic to travel between the worlds, has given each a colour coding: grey for the non-magical, which is much like our own world in the 19th Century; red for his own, where magic is a respected tool; white for the darker reality, where magic is an elusive power to be grabbed and wielded mercilessly; and finally black, a world so corrupted by evil that it has been sealed off. Any token of black London’s world has been destroyed – and in A Darker Shade of Magic, we get to find out why.

I really enjoyed it, from the wonders of Kell’s impossible, multi-sided coat, to Lila’s journey from pick pocket to owning her own destiny, to the quest element of saving three worlds. It could have been drawn into a longer, deeper tale, but that in itself was a nice change of pace. Bring on the sequels!

“My life is mine to spend.”

PB: 384 pages, 14 (subdivided) chapters.
Read 27th March – 1st June 2015

My rating: 8/10