Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Review: The Crimson Shard - Teresa Flavin

Extent: 304 pages
Publisher: Templar
Pub Date: 1st October 2011
Prequel(s): The Blackhope Enigma

This sequel to The Blackhope Enigma is imbued with alchemy and intrigue. During what seems like an ordinary museum visit, tour guide Throgmorton lures Sunni and Blaise through a painted doorway into eighteenth-century London. When Throgmorton demands secret information from the pair about their Blackhope escapades, they attempt to flee, encountering body snatchers, art thieves and forgers in this gripping time-travel adventure.

I love it when a sequel does something very different from its predecessor, testing familiar characters with strange situations and adding more dimensions to the world you thought you knew. I am so pleased to say that this is exactly what Teresa Flavin has done with The Crimson Shard. The Blackhope Enigma was akin to Narnia with Sunni and Blaise being sucked into a painted world but The Crimson Shard takes you on a time travel adventure to 18th century London although, of course, there are still magical paintings…

What I really like about The Crimson Shard, is that it takes the thriving genre of time travel but gives it a wonderfully original twist. It is written not so much as science fiction but as fantasy with a magical painted door the portal through time. And it’s not just the glamorous side of the 18th century that the reader sees but Teresa really digs into the gritty and sometimes darker side of the times with its nightsneaks, trickery and poor hygiene. It’s this kind of detail that gives the book its realism and makes Sunni and Blaise’s situation all the more desperate. I also really enjoy Teresa’s characters. She writes a pretty mean bad guy, the kind that lurks through the book like a threatening undercurrent, and her good guys are always endearing and almost theatrical which only increases their charm. Sunni and Blaise also develop through the sequel, their relationship becomes stronger and Teresa writes so subtly as they become emotionally dependent on one another. It’s touching and shy, just like young attraction should be, rather than brash and in your face.

I think my favourite aspect of all is that art to Teresa’s books is rather like music is to a film – it creates a wonderful, palpable atmosphere and really adds a fourth dimension to the story. As you read, it feels like you are turning the pages of an illustrated book but apart from the odd pencil sketch – which is definitely another of my favourite aspects – the book consists of just plain old lines of black text (not that there is anything wrong with that!). The colours and artistry are just so easily conjured up in my mind that it really doesn’t seem like plain old lines of black text at all. It’s almost as if the story has been painted rather than written with the layers of mystery like layers on a huge landscape painting that are gradually washed off to reveal the book’s secrets. Reading one of Teresa’s books is such an enjoyable and magical experience and I really hope that I get to read more of them long into the future!

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