I want to say I loved this book unreservedly, because I like the word unreservedly, but I do have some reservations. So let us say I loved the book reservedly, with a sort of Susan Sto-Helit kind of love.
First, I think she picked a fascinating topic - basically, what makes a human human? Is it the body making demands on the brain (thinking: Lady Myria LeJean)? Is it environment? Is it upbringing? In fact, it brings a whole new facet to the nature versus nuture debate that I really appreciated.
Sadly (for me) I guessed pretty early on that Nick was the thing Black Arthur wanted. I am not usually very adept at these things, and the reason I was this time lay in the fact that 'ex-Harry Potter fanfiction writer!' kept the old seventh Horcrux debate fresh in my mind. Remember how we all had that pet theory that Harry was the Horcrux? Now, the two things aren't related at all, except for how I had a sneaking suspicion that Black Arthur's quest wasn't for a charmed magical object so much as a charmed magical person.
Ninety percent of the time, I felt the clues to Nick's identity were deftly woven into the narrative. I especially liked the way his anti-hero dyslexia turned out to be the biggest hint. The other ten percent, you ask? Well, I would have loved loved LOVED to see a few more flashbacks to Nick's childhood. The snippet about Olivia trying to drown Nick in a boiling bath was one of the best scenes in the book. Alternatively, I'm hoping we get Alan's POV in later books, because there is surely nothing more fascinating than this human child taking pity on a demon baby and trying to raise it 'right.'
I'm not sure how I feel about Jamie and Mae. I should have picked up that Jamie's wisecracking was at odds with his retiring, feeble character. I think he may turn out to be the most interesting of the lot, despite my enduring image of him - inspired by one description - in a lavender shirt and earring plus (my own addition) black sweatpants and white Nikes: the image of a scrubhead. Then again, he is from Exeter, the birthplace of chavdom. As for Mae ... I take it the next book is from her POV, which, yay! Because I really can't fathom her attraction to Nick, beyond pure superficiality. Maybe good looks as a defining character trait need to be played up more in a non-visual medium? I don't know, but I guess we'll find out in the second installment.
Black Arthur's plan gave me shivers. I kept thinking of Nick as his son, but of course his son was long dead. It was a creepy, creepy thought. Only one quibble: Black Arthur's name sounds like a cat's. An evil cat's, sure - maybe the one the baddie strokes in James Bond films; "I keep this human robot to speak for me and pet me, Bond ... which do you think is most important?' Maybe plain Arthur would have sold me. Or maybe I'm just being nitpicky.
It was keeping a secret from Nick that was different. He'd kept only one secret before: the letters he used to rise early for and collect from the postbox. Nick rose even earlier to cut them up, and eventually they stopped coming.
Oh, boy, I felt for Nick here. To do something so reprehensible speaks of a deep love, even if he was a demon who supposedly couldn't feel it. (I'm surprised Alan didn't just email Natasha, though. Maybe that would have been too easy for Nick to discover?)
Alan looked from Nick to Jamie's alarmed face and seemed a little sad, just like he had when they were young and teachers had told him that Nick didn't play well with others. Nick failed to see how it could keep coming as a surprise.
One of the subtly brilliant hints. I love how this could have worked if Nick were a) a demon b) a psychopath or c) just not a very nice kid. Deft!
who'd raised him, packed his school lunches, and used to sit on the edge of Nick's bed like a small, ferociously patient owl, waiting for him to fall asleep
This was my favourite description of Alan-the-owl. It ... kind of made me 'awwww'.
And these descriptions win at life:
The little room felt suddenly cold, frozen in its horrible cream and silver, like a wedding cake left in the freezer.
Nick stood braced as the train rattled through tunnels with a sound like bones shaking in a drum
I'm like YES! THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT TRAIN TRAVEL FEELS LIKE! Only far less lyrical, sadly.
It was dark and a little cold. He felt tired and chilled by everything that had happened today. He wanted to go home to Alan, eat cereal on the sofa, and sleep in his own bed.
That was what humans did, with the whole world laid out before them every day.
TOTALLY THE PINNACLE OF THE BOOK. I'm not sure I have the words to explain why Nick wanting his bed and realising he's neither human nor demon but both, simultaneously and apart, is so amazing. I'm really, really curious to see how this plays out for him and Alan in their future life. They seem to be pretty much free of the magicians' threat now that Gerald thinks Nick is dead/gone; they can have that 'normal' life. But can Nick both forgive Alan and come to terms with his own humanity? I guess we'll have to wait and see...
Oh, and I'm dumb as a bag of rocks, but. Wry is demon's lexicon? I don't remember there being any books of significance in this story.
I went to marmalade_fish to seek other reviews and, uh. Does it strike anyone else that posting fanfic there, where SRB is known to read, is the equivalent of going up to Ryan Ross and handing him a 'Ryden exists' sign? I.e., creepy.
Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope
The Bostonians, Henry James
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger
The Outsider, Albert Camus
The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot
The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope
Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans
Villette, Charlotte Bronte
The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
Cecilia, Fanny Burney
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
The Duke and I, Julia Quinn
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck