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The Narrows Paperback – 1 Jan 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Snowbooks (1 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907777598
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907777592
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 971,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/read-horror/meet-the-writer/james-brogden/

About the Author

James has been working on The Narrows, his first novel, since winning a Big Issue short story competition for a 'Modern Midlands Fable'. He has written successful role-playing adventures, and is an English and Media Studies teacher in Worcestershire trying to disprove the idea that 'those who can, teach'.The Narrows comes out of a deep personal interest in prehistoric cultures, bushcraft, and the hidden, forgotten corners of urban environments.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When you think of urban fantasy, almost inevitably somewhere like London or New York comes to mind. Despite being a Londoner (a born one at that, so I can look down my nose at all the dick-come-latelys [dick after Dick Whittington of course] that pretend they understand the Great Wen) even I have to admit that leaves a lot of urbanity out of the picture.

So thank you, James Brogden, for bringing a city long overlooked out of the shadows, or the Narrows, and into the enchanted ley light of literature. This is a wonderful book that succeeds in doing something most people - and certain any Londoner - would consider impossible: it casts Birmingham as a believably magical place - although I think it more than appropriate that the Bull Ring should be the putative site of the Apocalypse, as our evil villain seeks to drill down to the core of the worlds and become, well, God, or at least, in Brogden's theological imagination, the usurper of Aristotle's unmoved mover (although presumbably Barber apotheosised would have adopted a more hands-on approach to deity).

Hugely enjoyable and I would be straight on to reading Brogden's next book, Tourmaline, if any borough in the London Libraries Consortium stocked it. Shamefully, none do. I may be forced to actually pay for it myself (yes, Brogden really is that good)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Narrows is the superb debut novel by James Brogden about the titular magical pathways that weave their way through Birmingham.

The novel is driven by two residents of Birmingham. There is Andy who lives in the everyday side of the city and there is Bex, one of the Narrowfolk, who can negotiate the magical alleyways. Their friendship brings the two sides of the city together and they form an alliance to stop the villainous Barber, who intends to exploit the power of the Narrows for his own dark purposes.

The Narrows is urban fantasy at its best, combining the surreal with the everyday. This is a novel where Narrowfolk can cut across the city in minutes, evading the monstrous skavags and living in an invisible shelter at the end of a cul-de-sac. However, this is also a world where people play X-boxes, watch Deal or No Deal and own Spongebob Squarepants DVDs. Brogden relates the fantastical to the everyday, with similes that reference pop culture such as Hogwarts, Reading Festival and Jeff Goldblum's The Fly, all of which ensures the magic remains grounded and believable.

Even better, this is more than just urban fantasy, this is Birmingham urban fantasy. England's second city is packed with potential for a fantasy novel and Brogden clearly enjoys himself weaving Brummie landmarks into his story. The German Christmas Market makes an appearance, lovingly described as "a child's jewellery box crammed to overflowing." The Rotunda, "a visionary landmark and a concrete toilet roll," features in a climatic battle scene. Even the famous Number Eleven bus route plays an important part in the plot. All of this makes The Narrows essential reading for Birmingham residents.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read mainly hard SF, so a novel that appears to be fantasy has to hold my attention for me to continue reading. This book didn't just hold my attention - I couldn't put it down! The fact that it is set largely in my home town of Birmingham helps of course (and the author seems to know it pretty well, despite actually living in Bromsgrove, where he teaches English and Media Studies). But he makes the strange shadowy netherworld of the Narrows and the narrow-folk who live there, leys, standing stones and hidden energies, remarkably believable. He does actually make an attempt to explain some the mystical phenomena scientifically, by invoking the 'Schumann-Watkins Displacement Field'; something which I view with mixed feelings. As an SF-reader (and writer) I appreciate the effort, but wonder whether magic isn't best left as magic?

I suppose this is best classed as urban fantasy, with a touch of horror. The main character, Andy Sumner, tries to take a short cut through an alley off Smallbrook Queensway, becomes totally lost in a courtyard full of weeds which should not be there, but unable to retrace his steps, and ends up ten minutes later, five miles away. . . he has discovered the Narrows. His life becomes entangled with that of a homeless girl, Bex, and then with the real baddie of the piece, the sinister and powerful Barber, who has grandiose plans not just for the Narrows, or Birmingham, or even Earth, but for many worlds or dimensions.

I find it remarkable that this is James Brogden's first novel, but he is to be congratulated. It reads like the work of a much more experienced and established writer. I recommend it, and look forward to his next book! (Which I see is called 'Tourmaline'.)
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I used to be a Stephen King addict, and gave up because I was having nightmares. Well, "The Narrows" is worth reading whether it brings nightmares or not. Like Stephen King's work, this story is imaginative, written in a highly readable style and speaks of the horrors that lurk beneath the surface of suburbia. The similarities stop there, though. "The Narrows" is as English as a £5 note, whizzing from buzzy Birmingham to the sleepy countryside through ley lines and stone circles. It isn't sugary, but it's sympathetic to human weaknesses and drifters at the margins of society are described with dignity. The ending is a sweet surprise. Simply superb.
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