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The Gift Maker: Spellbinding and beautifully written, impossible to put down by [Mayes, Mark]
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The Gift Maker: Spellbinding and beautifully written, impossible to put down Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Length: 343 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

This is a magical, daring book, set in a world reminiscent of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast or the Wes Anderson film Grand Budapest Hotel. Using language of marvellous distinctiveness and beauty which reveal his poetic background, Mark Mayes creates a sometimes beautiful and frequently nightmarish world where reality and folk tale morph into surrealism to disturbing effect. By turns hilarious and terrifying, wise and thought-provoking, The Gift Maker stands head and shoulders above anything I have read this year. I devoured it in two sittings, and will now start again so as to savour less breathlessly its sublime language and ideas. This sustained feat of imagination is a best-seller and likely award winner if ever I read one. Not for the faint-hearted, but brilliant. --Simon Michael, bestselling crime author

About the Author

Before becoming a writer, Mark trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He subsequently worked in theatre and television for several years, both in the UK and abroad. He has worked variously as a cleaner, care-worker and carer, salesman, barman, medical transcriptionist, warehouse worker, and administrator. Mark has published numerous stories and poems in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Eire, and Italy, and in particular has had several stories published in (or accepted for) the celebrated Unthology series (Unthank Books). His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. He has been shortlisted for literary prizes, including the prestigious Bridport Prize. In 2009, Mark graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in English (Creative Writing and Critical Practice) from Ruskin College, Oxford. Currently living in South Wales, Mark is also a musician and songwriter. Among his favourite writers are: Jean Rhys, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, and Christopher Priest. The Gift Maker is his debut novel and will publish spring 2017.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3644 KB
  • Print Length: 343 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications (23 Feb. 2017)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01NAPKWRJ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #228,643 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mark Mayes takes us on a magical journey in the company of three young students, living somewhere in Central Europe, who have received mysterious gifts from an unknown source. Their quest to find the origin and meaning of the anonymous offerings leads them by various circuitous and deeply hazardous routes, involving confrontations with grotesque beasts, malformed creatures, and birthday cakes containing severed fingers, to the strange and sinister town of Grenze, where they meet an eccentric and impossibly charming theatre producer who welcomes them to his latest production, which apparently stars two of the students, playing themselves.
At this point the story takes wing and the reader is whisked off into a kaleidoscopic world, where reality is constantly shifting, and invited to enjoy a fascinating examination of the unanswerable questions of existential experience and the origins of life.
This book is an extraordinary achievement. It is entertaining, mesmerising, wholly engaging and conveyed in beautifully flowing prose.
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This is a highly original and utterly mesmerising novel that held me spellbound from the very first chapter. Beautifully written, it charts the lives of three life-dulled students, two of whom suddenly receive a gift that is not only completely unexpected, but also utterly impossible. Liselotte is bewitched by hers, and is so curious about what she believes her gift is telling her that she sets off on an ill-advised quest to the borderland of Grenze - and her journey becomes more hazardous by the moment. Thomas doesn't open his gift initially, and then becomes too afraid to after witnessing Liselotte's gift. After enquiring about the gift's benefactor, Thomas becomes more wary still, but his quandary over whether or not to open his gift is resolved for him - upon returning to his room, it has vanished without a trace.

What neither Liselotte or Thomas know is that the consequences of receiving the custom-made, and highly personal, gifts have already been decided for them - by a theatre impresario whose existence they are unaware of. The third student, the mercurial, enigmatic Jurgen, does not receive a gift, but he is part of their story, too, and follows Thomas in his blind quest.

Rich in symbolism, the novel is poetic, highly charged, and so vividly written that I became completely unaware of my real-world environment, having stepped into the shape-shifting world of Liselotte, Thomas, Jurgen, and the mysterious, nomadic Daumen, whose very identity and existence becomes ever more compromised by following the denouement of the students' story. I literally couldn' put this book down - it is so compelling that you can't bear to leave the characters to their fate. Unusually inventive, this fantasy is not for the faint-hearted.
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I started this one in a conscious effort to read more books published by independent presses. I chose Urbane Press this month as Mark Mayes, The Gift Maker caught my eye. And I’m so glad it did! It proved to be a disturbing, and yet beautiful. It reminded me very much of Bulgakov’s, The Master and the Margarita, with its surreal nature, as well as its Eastern European-esque setting (the characters venture to a town called Grenze, which translates to “Border”).

At the very beginning, one of the MCs, Thomas receives the mysterious box. I enjoyed gradually getting to know Thomas and his fellow philosophy students - their jokes and banter easing us into the story. It isn’t until we meet Liselotte, the other MC that the story starts to get surreal and magical, but it’s worth the wait. I loved following her on her quest to understand her gift and watching as the world around her becomes more warped and disturbing.

There is so much to contemplate in this book - there is a depth of soul in this book that is such a rarity. I think some of the quotes I marked will sum up the particular beauty of its pages and its writer:

“The gift will find the receiver, whether he wishes it or not, for it is part of him and cannot be denied.”

“We look for the pure, if hidden, desire. The love of the love for its own sake, not for gross gain. A rare thing in this and other worlds."

I don’t want to give too much away, but there are layers upon layers of meaning and influence in this book. One moment you think of The Master and Margarita, especially with the theatre scenes and then there’s hints of Dr Faustus and questions about one’s ambitions in life and their impact on the soul.

This book has stayed with me the last week - and I will definitely be buying a paperback copy so that I can revisit it again when the images and ideas fade.
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The world of fantasy is not a genre I am naturally drawn to, though every now and then I am attracted to a book because of the good things I have heard about the writer, and with the Gift maker, I am always intrigued by philosophical underlying threads.
The Gift Maker is a story about an anonymous gift to each of three students. Do they open the box? It is here that the philosophical nexus drew me in. I read this as, open the gift and you can follow your future, leave the gift unopened, and your future will follow you - what is there not to like about that, a magnificent hook.
Mark Mayes, as I was lead to expect, has a gift of beautiful descriptive writing and I sometimes found myself a little lost in his creativity, wanting at times for the narrative to punch on, but it was a story that demanded this languorous world of self-discovery 'magically' set within various vignette scenes; a girl on a train; a visit to the University refectory; a snow scene in a wood, with the girl, a village lad and a wild boar; arriving at the distant town of Grenze, decrepit or passed onto another life? and descriptions of the theatre - this book is about trusting in the author, that he will steer you beyond grizzly events, wondrous sights, whilst all the time the contents of the gifts grow in importance, leading to a dramatic, though ethereal, conclusion, which I found strangely satisfying - I was not expecting that.
If your favoured read is magical tales, then The Gift maker is 5 stars all the way, more than enough to satisfy an avid reader of this genre. If you pick up this book for an engaging read, as I did, then I would recommend 4 stars, but only because the fantasy, dream like content, is not my thing, but it surely is a really good read.
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