Science fiction and fantasy
The Bride That Time Forgot
by Paul Magrs
Brenda's old friend Henry Cleavis comes back into her life, and with Effie out of the way she's glad of the company. She has younger companions like Penny and Robert who work at the Miramar hotel, but they lack experience in seeing off creatures of the night. Henry is a veteran adventurer and monster hunter, and his arrival in town is no coincidence. The undead are turning up all over Whitby and multiplying like insects. It's up to Brenda and her friends to get things under control before the vampire plague gets out of hand, and Henry applies his more brutal methods to the problem.
Meanwhile a new book group has started up in a new bookshop, The Spooky Finger. They focus on discussing the fantasy stories of an obscure Edwardian novelist, Beatrice Mapp. The name rings a bell for Brenda, but thanks to her fishnet memory all the details escape her. However the fantasy world of Qab with its fierce Queen and enslaved men holds a fascination for Whitby's other women. Brenda alone seems to be immune to the cult-like attraction of the stories. What's more, the owner of the bookshop has strange items in her shop, and a subservient assistant who is more lizard than human. It all points to the world of Qab having more substance than the idle fantasies of a lady novelist of questionable talent.
Even when the characters aren't from this world they're believable because they have recognisable traits and they respond in ways that are easy to sympathise with. There's a distinct lack of wholly good or evil people in The Bride That Time Forgot, and this moral ambiguity keeps things tense. Is Effie the victim of a manipulative monster, or is Brenda?
There's a great clash of images in this novel. Doilies, pinking shears, and tea and biscuits are followed by giant insects that eat people and stakes through the heart. Brenda and Effie have an irresistible appeal thanks to their homely, down-to-earth approach to the wierd and wonderful, and this keeps the story fast and light. It's not particularly hard to figure out what's going to happen next, but the charm of the main characters keeps their story engaging. It's as if they'll muddle through anything at all, from the Apocalypse to travel between other dimensions, and always be home in time for tea. Brenda's fearless irreverence is captivating, and Effie's voice is like a dose of pure Yorkshire tonic. Always fun.
28th March 2011
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Review © Ros Jackson
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