‘I heard a hiss. Then a low, menacing snarl. And as the clouds cleared again and the moon shone down, I found myself staring into a pair of blazing yellow eyes.’
Proving once more their exceptional talent for realising their own worlds down to the most minute, vivid and therefore utterly convincing detail, ‘Barnarby Grimes‘, the first book in a new series, sees their work and unique collaborative techniques transposed from the fantasy oeuvre to a more historic setting.
The eponymous Barnaby Grimes is a ‘Tick Tock’ lad, a delivery boy of sorts, whose method of ambulation is across the roof-scapes and skyline of the city. This provides ample helpings of cliff-hanger suspense and tensions in addition to providing spectacular striding panoramas across the city.
The city is replete in its surface veneer of finery and elegance, yet throbbing beneath it is a seedy underbelly of deep, dark secrets, of corruption and power-struggles that has the transformative powers to imbue readers with the sensibilities of an intrepid explorer and an astute sleuth.
The prose is almost poetic, imbued as it is with rhythm and pace and a crystalline crispness. The narrative is lithe and lively. It leaps and bounds as does the lyncathrope that tears at the heart of the novel. Interplay between story and illustration brings to mind a more dynamic version of the dialectic between Harry Furniss and Charles Dicken!
Rich in literary allusion, the book has shades of Stephenson’s ‘Jekyll and Hyde‘, a tinge of Barrie’s dark humour with the ‘Tick Tock’ referencing Hook’s nemesis, the crocodile that swallowed the clock thus emphasising the importance of time in delineating childhood, societal cross-sections that bring to mind Dickens and of course the werewolves themselves, a construct of European folkloric legends with possible literary originations in the Icelandic Volsunga Saga. A thought-provoking and highly engaging new read penned by the hands of one of the most exciting creative collaborations in children’s literature.