by Richard Kadrey
I’m a big fan of Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, so I was excited to read his new standalone, fantasy-horror YA book. It’s the story of Zoe, a girl dealing with the upheaval her father’s unexpected death has had on her life. Her best friend is a boy she only sees when she’s asleep, and her newest hobby is hanging out at a record store whose strange proprietor offers her the chance to talk with her dead father. This propels Zoe on a strange journey into the world of the dead, where magic is possible and nothing is as it seems. Something is off in this world; Zoe’s life and the souls of the dead she loves are in danger. As just a mortal girl, what hope does Zoe have against age-old mystical forces?
This book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either. It was ok. It was more on the fantasy side of things than horror, which was good. And it was entertaining enough and well written enough to keep me reading. But coming from Kadrey’s other books and knowing what he can do, this just seemed… watered down. Maybe that’s because this was for a YA audience rather than adult, but I’ve read YA that is still surprising and original. This was not really surprising, or exciting. I kept having this thought in the back of my head that I’d read this story before; I don’t know if he based it all on a myth I came across somewhere or what, but it seemed like a retelling of something, not a new story. And retellings can be striking and original in their own right, but this one just wasn’t. It was formulaic. His spin with the record store and old music angle was mildly interesting, but it seemed an odd choice for a YA audience since they a) don’t use records and b) likely wouldn’t have heard of any of the bands he referenced (I hadn’t, and I’m older than the target audience). Again, though, it was well written technically, and interesting enough to have me finish the book, so definitely not all bad. But if you’re going to read some Kadrey, I’d recommend the Sandman Slim series over this.
I give it 3/5 stars.
I was given a promotional copy of this book by Harper Voyager U.S. for review.