Title: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep
Author: H.G. Parry
Release Date: 23rd January 2020
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 55
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Oribit and Little, Brown Book Group UK , via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The ultimate book-lover’s fantasy, featuring a young scholar with the power to bring literary characters into the world, for fans of The Magicians, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and The Invisible Library.
For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world… and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing.
There’s someone else who shares his powers. It’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality.
This book is already in the running for one of my books of the year! Out of the 12 books I have read so far in 2020 it is by far the best. It is a book nerds dream and for me was a five star read from the very first page.
Our main character Charley Sutherland, is an English lit scholar with a bit of a difference, he can pull characters out of the books and into the real world. Who wouldn’t want to have tea with Sherlock Holmes, be courted by a Mr Darcy or two, or hang out on the back of The white witch of Narnia’s Silver Harley Davidson? Charley can do all those things, he certainly has his favourite characters focusing mainly on Dickensian characters. He is not the only summoner. Another is threatening way of life for both the literary characters thing to make there way in the world and the city of Wellington, New Zealand.
For me to have an urban fantasy set in New Zealand is actually a novelty. I have not come across this as a setting before. Both the reality setting and then when we enter a semi-fictional setting had real atmosphere that really made them distinct. It was easy to imagine the juxtaposition between the two places, the crumbling, higgilty piggilty Victorian cobbled street compared to a more modern built up inner city just stood out. This also had somewhat of a duel function. The City itself was very much the domain of our narrator Robert Sutherland. Robert is Charley’s older brother. He has a normal life, in a city he adores, and while he loves his brother he sees his skill set as a family secret looming over them and threatening that normal contented life. He is very much Wellington while his brother lives half his life in books and is connected just as much to the fictional world.
This theme of the sibling relationship is prominent all the way through. As an older Sister myself, I found myself identifying with Roberts and his conflicting feelings towards his brother. He adores him but also feels responsible for him, while trying to let Charley be an adult and overcoming that need to protect your younger sibling. This aspect of the storyline was filled with such subtlety exploring the feelings and their relationship with such grace that was just beautiful to read. It really resonated with me. While they are in conflict they are still loving siblings, it was just a great relationship to read about.
The magic system was genius. The Characters that come to life embody the literary interpretation of the summoner. Therefore, you can read multiple copies of the same character but they will all be a little bit different as your interpretation of that character within the story changes. This was also great in introducing our villain. We could see the difference in their personality from Charley’s from how they interpreted the character when reading them out of the book. It allowed for some very dark twists and turns.
Charley definitely has his favourites, usually from the world of Dickens, which is his academic speciality. You by no means need to have read Dickens yourself. H.G Parry does an excellent job of exploring and explaining the characters and stories without it feeling in for dumpy. They are as natural as the characters she has created and integrate into the story fantastically. I have not read Great Expectations but the book manages to convey enough that you can enjoy and understand the aspects it contributes to this tale. H.G. Parry never lets the reader feel out of their depth, but also has mastered the art of imparting information without you feeling like you are reading a textbook on the subject.
In fact a number of the characters and their interpretations included in this book made me want to go back and read the originals. I loved the interpretation of Dorian Gray and I think it would be fun to re-read it to see how it has coloured my view of him. This book made me want to go and relive other books, while still captivating me with its unique story. That is just awesome.
My only negative is there is the troupe of miscommunication between two characters, which is one of my pet peeves. However, this is a very minor plot point that has little to no impact to the overall plot so is easily overlooked. Overall I just adored this book. I think it is one of those books that will have something for everyone. If you love exploring fictional worlds, if you love classics, if you love urban fantasy, if you love books exploring family relationships and found family vs family, if you are just a giant book nerd that love books about books, READ THIS BOOK!
I could go on and on but I am trying to avoid spoilers. It’s a 5 star read all the way.