Island, The Hardcover – 1 Jun 2009
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'Definitely a series to watch - 4 stars' SFX Magazine 'Indiana Jones meets The Twilight Zone' SFFWorld.com
About the Author
Tim Lebbon has won two British Fantasy awards, a Bram Stoker award, and a Tombstone award, and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild and World Fantasy awards. Several of his novels and novellas are currently under option in the USA and the UK. He lives in South Wales with his wife and two children. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Set almost entirely around the small fishing village of Pavmouth Breaks this is a book that focuses more on characters than locations. Kel Boon is the main protagonist, a seemingly simple life is thrown into chaos by a tsunami and the subsequent appearance of a mysterious Island. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Kel Boone is anything but a simple woodcarver and gradually his background as a secret agent in the Core (think Noreelan SAS) is revealed.
When the inhabitants of "The Island" start to arrive in Noreela it's Kel Boon and partner Namior that suspect something is not quite right. What follows is a race against time to protect the people and traditions of Noreela. The story has elements of steampunk, fantasy, science fiction and horror but is, deep down, a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.
There is little of the epic sweep of Fallen here, though it does share a common sense of mystery, this is all about survival. Survival from a feared but largely unknown antagonist. There are elements here that could almost reflect modern politics as a technologically advanced nation threatens to overrun a much less advanced and far more traditional lifestyle.
In Tim Lebbons usual skillful prose style he keeps the pace moving by gradually revealing more details throughout the book. This coupled with the inventiveness of the setting made this a pleasure to read. If anything it was too short leaving quite a few questions but also leaving the way clear for (hopefully) sequels.
It's not quite as powerful as Fallen but that may just be down to my preference for epic quests but once again we are given a unique snapshot of life in Noreela which pushes fantasy to its boundaries and often beyond. It may have swords and even sorcerers (well witches) but this is about as far from traditional fantasy as you could get. Lebbon's stories almost take on a mythic quality mixing the genres up in a suitably strange and potent brew.
Kel Boon thinks he has managed to escape his past as an agent in the secret organisation the Core, protecting the blissfully unaware Noreelans from the threat of the lizard-like Strangers - creatures from beyond the known world capable of untold destruction. In the sleepy fishing village of Pavmouth Breaks, Kel has become a woodcarver, leaving fighting behind and forming a tentative relationship with trainee witch Namior. But a storm is brewing and at its centre the witches sense something dark and deadly. What follows the wake of the storm threatens the Noreelans' very way of life. With the people and land he loves in terrible danger, Kel quickly realises that he cannot escape his past.
Yes... I know it sounds fairly run of the mill - but it isn't. For starters, Lebbon is excellent at delivering tension-filled fear without slowing down the action - partly because he is an extremely competent writer who keeps all the action centred around Kel and Namior. The terrible storm and the havoc it wreaks on the fishing community is very well portrayed as the villagers struggle to come to terms with the devastating waves that sweep away their homes, families and livelihoods. Kel is conscious that he doesn't belong as he watches everyone around him grapple with the enormity of the disaster - and it is that sense of detachment, along with his Core training, that has him already alert for any possible threats. That and the inexplicable disappearance of magic... This tale is a real genre mash-up - dark fantasy, swords and sorcery and steampunk. I have seen claims that it qualifies as science fiction, but I personally think that there would need to be more emphasis on the technology to tick that box. Not that it really matters - it doesn't stop this being a cracking read. While Lebbon has written other books set in this world, he has ensured that it is a standalone novel, so no one will find their enjoyment blunted by picking up this book before visiting any of the other Noreela books.
Kel's character leaps off the page right from the start and his hopes, personal demons and increasing concern at what is happening was, for me, the reason to keep turning the pages. Namior, his lover and young witch who has been born and raised in the small community all her life, wasn't quite as strong. She certainly suffers in comparison to O'Peeria, Kel's former Core partner. Although we only learn about O'Peeria in flashbacks through Kel's point of view, the gutsy, foul-mouthed fighter immediately engaged my attention and loyalty in a way that Namior didn't until much further into the book. However, this is a minor niggle and didn't stop me staying up way into the night to discover what would happen next.
Lebbon can definitely weave an engrossing tale, full of menace and punctuated by bursts of sudden violence. I enjoyed the fact that though Kel is a trained killer, the fight scenes are less about swashing buckles and much more about the gritted business of surviving any encounter without major injury or death. The world-building is exceptional and I loved the descriptions of the island and the stricken fishing village, which were depicted with cinematic clarity. Overall, this is an outstanding tale. Now knowing why Lebbon is regarded with such respect by committed speculative fiction fans, I will be looking for his other work.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
While this mildly interesting fantasy novel with a couple of moderate twists is my introduction to the author's Noreela world, I'm far from being impressed with the overall impact of the book: descriptions of certain characters and technology strike me as rather unelaborate; for some reason I couldn't really care about the protagonists; the constant running hither and thither can get tiresome after a while (up Drakeman's Hill for the umpteenth time, back to the harbour, add a brief spelunking, paddle to Komadia, return, leaving the environs of Pavmouth Breaks, etc.); the ending I find weak without any lasting impression. The writer is better at depicting states of mind, human interactions, emotions and possible motives of his characters; whereas the action scenes are quite average and not exciting that much.
"The glow came from a dip in the land to their right, just within the influence of the trees. It looked as though a rainbow were sleeping there…They found crystals…They seemed to be growing, most of them upright, though some were tilted slightly, like flowers following the sun…The light refracted from them felt unclean, and the colours corrupt…Within the crystals' light-spreading mass, something dark seemed to roll and twist. Parts of it moved fast, thrashing massively in a space too small to contain it. Other parts rolled and billowed as slow as storm clouds. Every movement seemed pained, and she was sure she heard wretched screaming somewhere too far away to be true" (chapter 8, pp. 276-8).
In case you want to try out a stand-alone fantasy novel by Lebbon where the story does not play out in Noreela, I'd suggest that you read The Heretic Land (2012).
This review is based on the Allison & Busby paperback edition The Island by Tim Lebbon (2010-05-06), counting 446 pages.
The story starts off with a tremendous tsunami coming into the land of Pavmouth Breaks (a small fishing village) and wreaking havoc on the town and its people, destroying homes and killing the locals. An Island has suddenly appeared in their peaceful harbour, bringing with it new people who seem to be understanding and they then front up as being helpful in rebuilding their – now – shattered world, as recompense.
A 'woodcarver' Kel Boon and his witch girlfriend Namior are thrown into this new clash which Kel holds great suspicions about. No one else is as suspicious as Kel; but then, these new people have come and tried explained to the locals a believable story of how their own land is cursed and how it is often thrown into new places at any time. They wish to help them rebuild… bringing with them their new technology as well, to help. And they also hope this curse will finally lift so they too can settle in peace.
In amidst all of this, Kel has a secret he is hiding… this cursed land is not what it appears and in fact, who are these strangers that have arrived truly? Could they actually be the enemy that Kel has been trained to fight against in his previous existence? One man alone cannot fight this. Kel will need external help from his past, that he has been trying to escape from… trying to escape from alive.
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