Top critical review
A great idea let down by poor execution
11 July 2019
This is a tricky one. On the one hand, there were some great ideas explored, a solid line of horror running throughout the narrative, and a decent enough amount of tension keeping the pace up. On the other hand, the writing at times was clumsy, repetitive, like the book hadn't been edited, with occasions where so many characters were introduced so quickly, it was difficult to keep on top of who was who.
The blurb is misleading too. Yes, there is some stuff about a magical London, but the bulk of the story is set on a train through Russia, with flashbacks to things that happened in London leading up to the rag-tag crew trying to banish a demon in Russia. The fact that you don't quite get what you were expecting makes the opening few chapters all the more disorienting.
None of the characters are particularly sympathetic, being all involved in criminality to some degree, or otherwise not much developed. I might have liked Steph, only a chapter about her history was cut off mid-sentence in what I hope is a formatting error in the ARC copy I received, and not something that will make it into the final book.
But the biggest drag of the book was the poor writing. From the overly confusing opening to the non-deliberate repetition of words within a single sentence, there were so many occasions reading this that I winced, wishing a better editor had taken a pass at the line by line writing. The plot was clever, and could have been decently scary in better hands, but overall I was left with the impression that this was written by someone with some talent who hadn't been given the editorial support he needed to really make the prose shine.
Overall, decently entertaining, but a potentially brilliant plot let down by poor execution.
My thanks to Netgalley for the review copy.