Sunday, April 10, 2011

Nothing Lost, Everything Gained - A Look At "The Book Of Lost Souls".

I have to admit to being from the "Buffy" school of the paranormal rather than the "Twilight" one. There was always something so much more accessible about the Scoobie Gang in that former franchise that appealed to me and I'm almost ashamed to say that I stuck it out with them for the series entire run. I've not encountered anything that has captured a spirit of fun and grit the way Buffy has...that is until now.

"The Book of Lost Souls" by Michelle Muto is a totally original take on the paranormal genre that - similar to "Buffy" - captures a spirit of hip 'now'-ness that is engaging from the very first page. I've got to stress here that I was only subtly reminded of Buffy whilst reading "The Book Of Lost Souls".

From the synopsis - "When teen witch Ivy MacTavish changes a lizard into her date for a Halloween dance, everything turns to chaos. And when no one is powerful enough to transform him back except Ivy, it sparks the rumor: Like father, like daughter. Ivy has heard it all before - that her father, who left when she was seven – was involved with the darkest of magic.

Making the rumors worse, someone uses an evil spell book to bring back two of history's most nefarious killers. Ivy's got a simple plan to set things right: find the real dark spell caster, steal the book, and reverse the spell. No problem! But she’ll have to deal with something more dangerous than murderous spirits that want her and her friends dead: the school’s resident bad boy and hotter-than-brimstone demon, Nick Marcelli. Nick’s offering Ivy more than his help with recovering the missing book – he’s offering her a way to ditch her scaly reputation as a lizard-lover. Demons are about as hard to handle as black magic, and as Ivy soon discovers, it’s going to take more than a lot of luck and a little charm if she wants to survive long enough to clear her status as a dark witch, get a warm-blooded boyfriend, and have her former date back to eating meal worms before the week’s end".

This is very much it's own story, which is an absorbing read that has comedy and wit, but also a more serious and perhaps sinister undercurrent running through it's narrative. There is action and mystery, romance and tenderness. It draws on classic archetypes and reworks them in a refreshing way and you actually enjoy the way Michelle weaves them into her tome. It's cleverly subtle - it doesn't belt you in the head.

Her cast too, are a vivid collection of characters, lead by the precocious and worldy Ivy, who reflect contemporary teens dealing with all the trials of growing up and dealing with peer groups, high school, difficult parents whilst dealing with the additional burdens of fangs, aversions to sunlight, wolf-like tendencies and the like. Muto's affection for her characters is clear and she imbues them with a rich realism and enthusiasm that make them leap off the page.

Muto's story craft is well honed. There is nothing contrived or superfluous and she has balanced the tension and excitement well with the lighter moments and the laughs too. The dialogue is sharp, settings are well described and visually accessible. Teens will most certainly love it and even cynics like a middle 30's parent can't help but smile.

"The Book Of Lost Souls" is a considerable achievement for Michelle Muto and I believe that it is a worthy addition to a genre that can perhaps, be a little too serious sometimes.


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