Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release date: February 2nd 2012.
Hardcover, 448 pages.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Liz
Fifteen-year-old Gavin Stokes is boarding a train to the countryside to live with his aunt. His school and his parents can’t cope with him and the things he sees, things they tell him don’t really exist.
At Pendurra, Gavin finds people who are like him, who see things too. They all tell him the same thing: magic exists, and it’s leaking back into our world—and bringing something terrible with it.
Advent is an epic novel with heart-stopping moments, notable as much for its atmosphere as for its pace and sense of place. With numerous themes deftly woven throughout the compelling narrative, this novel is a spellbinding return to old-fashion storytelling and impossible to put down.
When I first started Advent I was a little apprehensive because of its size and small print (This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy), but I needn’t have worried because Advent is a thrilling fantasy novel that really stands out from the crowd. Our main character Gavin is on the way to his aunt’s house while his parents are on holiday, and he’s ecstatic. His parents don’t like him and he can’t wait to get away from busy London and spend some time alone, without being judged by his mum and dad. Since an early age, Gavin has been plagued by a woman no-one else can see: Miss Grey; his best friend, his worst enemy. After fifteen years, and much to his parents’ relief, he’s finally come to terms with the fact that Miss Grey isn’t real. But on the train journey out of London, Miss Grey appears, and is nothing like her usual, quiet self. She screams out a warning that Gavin doesn’t understand. Until later, that is, when his life changes forever. Magic and mystery grab hold of Gavin until he is questioning everything he has ever known – about the world, and about himself.
Advent is a stunning start to a new fantasy series. The writing was probably the most notable part for me, engrossing and descriptive (at times beautifully so) and everything you’d want in a fantasy novel. I was completely absorbed and sucked in by the world James Treadwell created. There was a great mix of humour and despair – at times, Gavin would be making a funny remark or sarcastic insult, but there were also times where you could literally feel the hopelessness in the atmosphere and the doom that was approaching. There was a parallel timeline, and some chapters were from the 1500s, running alongside the chapters from present day. These chapters intrigued me the most, because at first, I literally had no idea what was going on. But as I read on, clues from the present day chapters made me realise what it was that was happening, and it was all so cleverly linked. I literally gasped when I first realised what the chapters from the 1500s meant for Gavin.
Gavin was a very interesting character. He felt unloved by his parents and didn’t speak much to anyone. He enjoyed being alone, and the whole reason he was looking forward to his trip to Aunt Gwen’s was so he could have some peace and quiet. He was pretty damaged; the treatment from his parents combined with a woman only he could see sometimes made him question his sanity. He seemed almost afraid of himself at times, and didn’t understand why these things were happening to him. I thought he was actually a very likeable character, however. He hated being patronised, so he tried his best not to be patronising to others. He was kind and wanted to protect the people he cared about. He wasn’t perfect by any means; he was a little judgemental, had a short temper and often ran away from responsibility. But by the end, I think he’d changed. He was ready to shoulder all his burdens instead of running from them. Even though he was still confused and not entirely sure what was going to happen, he seemed stronger and more determined.
Marina was another character that intrigued me. She was a thirteen year old girl, but acted very young for her age. She’d been isolated her whole life, and sheltered from practically everything. She didn’t know basic slang and had never heard of swear words before. Her whole character came across as completely innocent, and it was like she seemed completely out of place. Gavin connected with Marina very easily, because she was the first person who didn’t judge him. She didn’t think he was stupid or crazy and she was actually interested in learning more about him. It was nice to see Gavin have someone he could talk to.
Plot-wise, Advent was quite unusual. The first half of the book seemed almost like a regular paranormal novel. It focussed on Gavin’s journey to his aunt’s house, and we learnt about the ghostly Miss Grey and a strange woman on the train that turned out to be one of his aunt’s neighbours, Hester. Hester provided the link to the second half of the novel, which was much more focussed on the fantasy aspects. By the time we met Hester again, so much had changed for Gavin and the story felt completely different to the first half. I liked Hester, she seemed down to earth and was just a genuinely nice person. We learnt more about her in the second half, and also found out a little about how she was connected to Gavin. However, not everything was explained. The last few pages of the book went in a completely different direction and hinted at what was to come in book two. But I’m curious – will Gavin and Marina be present? Will we find out why Hester and Gavin were connected? So many questions! I’m already excited for the sequel.
Overall, Advent was a great fantasy novel and I recommend it to all fans of the genre, who also like realistic protagonist and unique characters.