Thursday, July 03, 2008

Review: Mind the Gap

Combined, authors Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon have put out more than 30 books. Now they've joined forces with Mind the Gap to bring a thriller set inside an urban fantasy world.


Teenager Jasmine “Jazz” Towne returns to her London home one afternoon to find her mother murdered and the killers searching for her. With a little guile and a lot of luck Jazz manages to slip away from her pursuers by plunging into London’s Tube and hiding in old, abandoned stations and forgotten bomb shelters. Jazz then falls in with a group of teenaged thieves led by the Fagin-esque Harry Fowler, a man who is beguilingly both enigmatic and welcoming. She takes to thieving quite well and quickly becomes the charmed member of the crew Fowler sends out on the most difficult jobs.

Emboldened by her new skills Jazz sets out to rob the mansion of one of the very men who killed her mother. There Jazz meets Terence, another thief she catches robbing the same house. Through Terence Jazz learns that everything---her mother’s murder, the father she never knew and even Fowler----are all wrapped into the plot of a secret society striving to revive the ancient spirits and magic hidden below the streets of London and use it for their own dark gains. The only way to get revenge for her mother’s death and to guarantee her own safety is to help Terence set the spirits free.

The premise is unique, in fact I'm not sure I've seen one quite like it before. Most urban fantasies focus on the clash between the real and the fantastic, and often feature the fantastic dying or fading because humanity is too lazy to see it anymore. But the twist with the good guys fighting to release the magic and remove it from London for the greater good is a fresh take. The basic setting of the story, with the underground tunnels and mysterious magic, reminds me a lot of Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The fantasy elements, though, are more toned down, making this a fantasy novel for people who don't normally like the genre.

Of course it all really works because of Jazz. Jazz herself is the perfect young heroine: capable, confident and possessing both a love of trouble and enough smarts to generally get out of it. The other characters all feel like stock characters, people pulled from other tales to fill a role. But Jazz and her unique outlook on life gives this fantasy thriller a little more emotional weight than the normal fare.


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