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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlucky For Some - But Not For Barry Hutchison!!, 15 April 2012
By 
Let me start by saying I'm not sure where to start. This is the first book review I have ever written. In fact, it's pretty much the first review of anything that I have ever written - well, since I was about ten when I wrote a review of a Norwich City football match because I was so shocked at the disastrous performance of the keeper (who let in a bizarrely awful goal then managed to knock himself unconscious). Anyway, whereas that review was stoked by outrage and disappointment, this one exists for entirely different reasons: Barry Hutchison's The 13th Horseman is staggeringly, breathtakingly, absolutely fantastic!!

You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. In fact I'm being entirely literal in my praise. It's staggeringly fantastic because the story - which involves a young lad called Drake who finds the three Horsemen of the Apocalypse living in a magic shed at the bottom of his garden, and discovers shortly afterwards that he is the new fourth Horseman, Death - was so engaging that I could not put it down, and staggered from place to place attempting to read it on the move. It's breathtakingly fantastic because it's so hilarious that I often found myself laughing so hard I couldn't get air into my lungs. And it's absolutely fantastic because the action scenes are so intense, and I got so caught up in the drama, that for those periods of time this story was utterly absolute, nothing else in the world mattered.

Drake, his new best friend Mel, and the horsemen find themselves battling a previous Death (the high-stress job has a very high turnaround of staff, as Famine explains at one point by listing the fates of Drake's predecessors: "Mad, mad, suicide, mad, quit, mad, goldfish, suicide, mad"), who is very keen to usher in the end of the world a few millennia early. My favourite scenes were the ones where Drake is training to be the new death - something he takes to like a fish... well, like a fish training to be the new death. A superb mix of wonderful Biblical mythology and "high-tech-mumbo-jumbo" keeps the action scenes racing along faster than an apocalyptic horseman's flying steed (which is very, very fast). The pace really is relentless as Drake, Mel and the horsemen find themselves up against ever-more deadly threats, culminating in a heart-stopping final battle for the fate of the world.

For me, though, it is the humour that really makes this story stand out from the wealth of mythology-related books out there. It seriously is one of the funniest books I have read in a very long time. The source of that humour is the horsemen themselves: War (grumpy, impatient and Scottish), Famine (morbidly obese, perpetually starving, fond of Cornettos) and my favourite, Pestilence (hypochondriac, ever-fretting and, well, suppurating). They are an amazing comedy trio, as perfectly suited to each other as the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges. They have been hanging around for thousands of years waiting to usher in Armageddon, and spend most of their time either arguing or playing board games or arguing whilst playing board games (the Guess Who sequence was my favourite). The dynamic between the horsemen is absolutely pitch perfect. Well, okay, maybe a couple of the jokes fall flat, but I was reading a proof copy of the book and they may well have been trimmed out. But either way, I really was giggling all the way through. They are one of the most amusing - and endearing - trios in children's literature. In fact, at times during the novel they pose a danger of overshadowing the main character - although fortunately Drake is so well drawn out and developed that this never happens.

It's a clever book, too, in the way it deals with issues of faith. The horsemen, after all, are right out of the New Testament, and writing a story like this could easily have caused problems for its author. But Barry handles his subject matter perfectly - talking about the mythology in a tongue-in-cheek way that also manages to be respectful. It's his fondness for his cast that does it, I think, a real love and affection for the horsemen and the tradition they come from. And it isn't just Christian mythology here - in this universe there is room for all beliefs, because it's faith that makes things real. As Pestilence says - putting right a common "mistranslation" from the Bible - "Faith can make mountains." It's actually a really positive and tolerant message to pass on to young readers.

The 13th Horseman is the first part of Barry's new Afterworlds series, which from what I can gather is a series of books set in the same universe (with its own vast lost property room), but with different characters and settings in each one. It's an intriguing and exciting prospect, and Barry has done an excellent job here of setting the groundwork and the ground rules - there really is an unlimited multiverse of possibilities to work with. All I can say is that he's going to have a hard job reaching the bar he has set for himself with this first volume. But as a writer who has already proven himself over and over (his Invisible Fiends books are brilliant), I have no doubt that he will. And I sincerely hope that wherever he goes next, War, Famine and Pestilence (and with any luck the Alfred Randall X-perience) get to go along for the ride.

I could go on, but in the interests of brevity I'll wrap it up here by saying READ THIS BOOK! The combination of fantasy and gentle humour, and the ability to find the absurd in the everyday, is definitely reminiscent of Terry Pratchett (and I'm talking about early Pratchett here, which is for me the best Pratchett), but this is very much Barry's world and Barry's sense of humour, and with this book he is seriously proving himself to be one of the funniest and most exciting writers around. 13 may be unlucky for some, but for Barry Hutchison it's an absolute winner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 19 April 2012
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Having read Barry's Invisible Fiends series I was expecting great things of this book and it certainly didn't disappoint me. I did get some very funny looks whilst reading it on the train , because of the the regular outbursts of giggles that I just couldn't prevent. Barry obviously has a very highly honed sense of the ridiculous and the laughs come thick and fast. Brilliant characters and a fast moving plot help to make this book a feast for anyone looking for a good read. The thought of .....one of the characters sprawled on a Twister mat will stay with me for ages and make me smile every time I think of it. Better than Prozac, this book will definitely cheer you up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why don't you own this yet?, 3 Mar 2012
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Short review:

This book is great, and for everyone. Buy it.

More sedate review:

If you know people who are recovering from abdominal surgery and shouldn't laugh too hard, please don't give them this book - it would be very irresponsible. However, for literally everone else - get them a copy.

Why? Well, it's funny - very funny - but is also a unique experience from an author who is clearly at the top of his game. There's something for everyone: a sympathetic and believeable protagonist; intrigue; pursuit; love interest; a pacy plot; big action, and a fat man eating a Cornetto.

There's literally nothing not to love in this joyful juxtaposition of the mundane and the mythical. Potential comparisons are plentiful but lazy - Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, God, Robert Rankin and Eoin Colfer, to name but a few. However while there's no shame in being compared with such master craftsmen, Hutchison is none of these; he is clearly an original and unique writer who belongs on the shelves alongside them but is also saying something new. Possibly about sheds.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (I NEVER give 5-star reviews!), would recommend it for any age group, and am waiting impatiently now for the next in the Afterworlds series. "13th Horseman" was simply the most fun I've had in ages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and stupid and very very funny, 9 April 2013
By 
Sarwat Chadda - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Okay, I am a huge Pratchett fan and no matter where he likes it or not, this author will be endless compared to him. I've got a copy of Colour of Magic right here (1985, Corgi paperback)so I've followed Pratchett's career from more or less the absolute beginning.
And 13th Horsemen was like that time when in 1985 I picked up Colour of Magic.
The humour is perfectly blended between childish and adult (the Biblical Guess Who? had me laughing all day)and the story is tightly plotted, the hero drifting between smart and smart-arse, as most kids do.
Barry gives each of the horsemen time to shine, their personalities perfectly reflecting their duties and their endless wait of the apocalypse. The background the previous deaths is brilliant, especially the stuff about admin. To say anything else would spoil a brilliant joke. This series comes in very fresh from a lot of the frankly grim and miserable stuff filling the shelves right now. Give yourself a break and just have a laugh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced and Funny, 22 Mar 2013
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I bought The 13th Horseman because the story idea was appealing and the jacket featured a quote from one of my all time favourite authors - Neil Gaiman - saying he enjoyed the book. I too enjoyed the 13th Horseman - it's pacey and funny in equal measure and laugh out loud in places. In my opinion the book is worthy of 4 stars. At times, I thought the humour got in the way of the plot and toned down some of the danger. That said, I enjoyed the story and liked very much the main characters - their personalities leapt from the page into my imagination. The writing style and plotting reminded me of the works of Douglas Adams... and I've often thought the same of his stories (that the humour gets in the way of the plot), but I love his stories nonetheless. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in the Afterworlds series. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 13th Horseman, 21 Mar 2012
By 
Sarah (Feeling Fictional) (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
After an unfortunate incident at school Drake finds himself expelled and is forced to move house to be nearer to his new school. The last thing he expects to find in his new garden shed is three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War, Famine and Pestilence - sitting around playing board games. Even stranger is the fact that they are convinced that he is their newest recruit, the replacement for Death. The old Death apparently got bored of waiting for the Apocalypse to start so he quit and decided to go off on his own to bring about the end of the world. It is up to Drake and the other Horsemen to stop him from succeeding.

Not being much of a horror fan I haven't read any of Barry Hutchison's Invisible Friends books even though I've heard great things about the series. I am a massive fantasy fan though so couldn't wait to pick up The 13th Horseman. Now I'm just left hoping that this is the start to a new series because I haven't laughed so much in ages. If you're a fan of comic fantasy then The 13th Horseman is a MUST read for all ages and one I can't recommend highly enough!

The story is action packed, full of humour and was one I could easily have read in one sitting. I loved the author's take on the Horsemen, he really brought all three of them to life but I have to confess to being a particular fan of Pestilence. You can't not laugh when the Horsemen are on the page playing board games and make sure you watch out for Famine's horse!

While I wouldn't compare the story to the Discworld books I would say that Barry Hutchison has a similar ability to Terry Pratchett in finding the absurd in everyday situations and twisting things to make them hilarious. If you want to get a feel for the style of the book make sure you check out Pestilence's diary on The 13th Horseman website and if you enjoy that you'll love the book. Although I'm still not quite brave enough to try his horror series I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more fantasy books from Barry - they'll be going straight to the top of my wish list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I now have a new favourite book, 28 Feb 2012
Jack(11): [...]
Book received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I now have a new favourite book and I shall be telling all my friends about it! The 13th Horseman is full of humour, action and suspense. This book is about Drake, a very normal school kid. Unfortunately, he gets expelled from school for the very silly reason that he blew up two toads, along with the top two floors of the school as well! It was all just an accident of course, but it means he had to move house in order to start a new school. He then discovers a shed in the garden - that bizarrely only he can see. Drake finds three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse inside the shed playing snakes and ladders and to his surprise they decide that as they are short of a Horseman, and he was able to find them, Drake must be one of them too. He then finds himself becoming the 13th Horseman -the new `Death'!

Battling against the former `Death', who is trying to end the world early, he finds his best friend Mel's life is at stake... along with the world! One of the funniest parts for me was when yet another `Death' has been travelling across the galaxies to find the garden shed - the meeting place of the Horsemen. He keeps cropping up during the book on his quest and when he finally gets there... well you will have to read it to see, but it really made me laugh out loud. I have enjoyed this book incredibly and would recommend it to anyone who loves a humorous adventure story. I now really REALLY hope there will be another book by Barry Hutchinson. This is the sort of book that would make a really good movie!

Verdict: A brilliant book, really good fun and very humorous.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant fantasy story that just happens to be very, very funny, 25 Feb 2012
Whenever I start to write a review I am determined that it will be succinct and straight to the point. Invariably they end up over-long and somewhat waffly, but no matter how hard I try I can't seem to write less, even when a book is so good all that really needs to be said is "It's brilliant, get your hands on a copy now!". The 13th Horseman, the first book in a new series by Invisible Fiends author Barry Hutchison, is one such book.

And now for the waffle (I just can't help myself). I love Barry's Invisible Fiends series - it has become one of my favourite series of the past few years - and so I couldn't help but be excited when a copy of The 13th Horseman arrived through my door. I had been following the progress of this book through Barry's blog and his tweets, and at the time it was fast becoming one of my top five most anticipated books of 2012. I was not disappointed.

The 13th Horseman is something of a departure for Barry, away from the realms of horror and into those of fantasy, and it certainly shows that he is no one-trick pony. Other reviewers have already likened it to the stories of Terry Pratchett, but I don't think that this is an entirely accurate parallel to draw. I haven't read the entire Pratchett series, but in my opinion it would be more accurate to liken The 13th Horseman to Pratchett's early Discworld novels, such as The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. Like these, The 13th Horseman is a fantasy story that just happens to be very, very funny, as opposed to being a comedy story set in a fantasy world. The Invisible Fiends series do have their comedic moments, especially the most recent in the series, The Beast, but in this new book Barry is able to let his talent for writing comedy shine.

Barry showed in his previous books that he has immense skill in creating great fantasy characters (think Caddy and Doc Mortis) and he continues to demonstrate this flair in The 13th Horseman. Barry's take on three of the horsemen of the apocalypse - War, Famine and Pestilence - will have kids giggling all the way through this book. Barry is coming to talk to the Year 7s at school in ten days and so I read the first two chapters to a group of them yesterday morning, and they were still chuckling and talking about it as they left the lesson.

This is the first book in Barry's Afterworlds series. This is not planned to be a series that tells one linear story, but in stead, like Pratchett's Discworld books, a series that tells a variety of different stories that are set in the same fantasy universe, with characters crossing over and making cameo appearances. The Invisible Fiends books are fabulous, but horror is not to every child's taste and so Barry's books are possibly not as widely read as they deserve. However, with this new book Barry is very much staking a claim as one of the top authors writing for the 10+ age group today and I hope that The 13th Horseman will garner him the wider readership and great acclaim that he richly deserves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A New Spin on The Horseman of the Apocalypse!, 10 Jun 2014
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This book is great! It has action,humour and is Not boring! The story is very good and is well thought out,it get's into the story quite quickly and is very funny. Basically a young boy finds the horseman of the Apocalypse in a shed at the bottom of the garden and they are looking for a 4th member,the horseman of death,as the others either left or went mad! Not great information to take in at the start of your new job,especially if your only a 13 year old boy who thinks there are nutters living in his shed! I have to say War is my favourite character,but that's only my opinion. I would recommend this book to 9 year olds and over and hey with these four in charge maybe Armageddon won't be so bad. :-)
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4.0 out of 5 stars The 13th Horseman, 2 July 2013
By 
Jenny, Wondrous Reads (UK) - See all my reviews
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I finally got around to reading The 13th Horseman after having a copy for a while and I'm glad I did. It's as funny as I hoped and is full of Barry Hutchison's trademark sarcasm and humour. It's also got plenty of action and horror - perfect for boys (and girls!) aged nine and up. I guarantee anyone who reads this will laugh their heads off but, unlike some of the characters, their heads won't actually separate from their bodies!

The 13th Horseman is all about teenager Drake and a shed in his back garden. It's no ordinary shed, though, because that would be weird. It is of course home to War, Famine and Pestilence, three of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Where's Death, you ask? Yeah, well, that's where Drake comes in (Don't worry, he can't believe it either).

This book is as fun as the crazy plot sounds. The Horsemen are my favourite part of the whole story, what with War's giant frame, Pest's disease-ridden existence and Famine's extreme appetite, there's never a dull moment in the shed. I would actually have liked even more normal, everyday scenes with these three as they were so funny. They play board games while they ponder the end of the world! Genius!

Sadly I don't have a shed in my back garden so I doubt I'll ever meet the coolest Horseman of the Apocalypse that ever lived. Instead I'll settle for living vicariously through Drake and his newfound responsibilities, and just hope that Death suits him. The 13th Horseman is recommended for fans of Darren Shan - if you like horror and humour mixed together then this is the book for you!

3.5/5
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