The Singular & Extraordinary Tale Of Mirror And Goliath (The Peculiar Adventures Of John Loveheart Esq. vol. I) by Ishbelle Bee (book review)

June 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘The Singular And Extraordinary Tale Of Mirror And Goliath’ is the debut novel from Ishbelle Bee. It is a magical tale filled with moments of wonder, mysterious happenings and strange people who are rarely what they seem.


Following a little girl called Mirror and her guardian, the former policeman Goliath, who seems to have developed a talent for shapeshifting, the story meanders around London and Egypt as they search for help removing the demon from Mirror’s soul. The demon used to live in a clock but, when Mirror’s grandfather locked her inside it, the demon transferred to the little girl and now she’s someone that a great many sinister characters would like to get their hands on. John Loveheart seeks her out so that his demonic boss can eat her, the strange society with the unusual clocks want to trap her and Mirror must outwit them all if she is going to survive until her next birthday.

This is a really peculiar book. It is described on the back cover as a ‘dark fairy tale for adults’ and it certainly reads like a fairy tale. There are young boys kidnapped by demons to raise as their sons, women taken to the underworld in payment for debts and a constant battle of good against evil. I liked the nod to the tale of Persephone with the woman who eats six pomegranate seeds and so is permitted to live in the human realm for half of the year and a love of other classical mythology is evident through this book. There are certainly dark moments, too, with the kidnap and murder of children being just one of the more disturbing parts of the story. Yet throughout the book, the thing that shines through is the real sense of wonder and imagination. There are so many fabulous descriptions of marvellous things, all of which really take your imagination on a rollercoaster ride. Almost nothing turns out the way you expect it to and nearly every character is hiding something.

I really enjoyed letting my imagination run loose on the imagery contained in this book, but I did at times find the structure of the story a little frustrating. It jumps about between character viewpoints, which is something I’m fine with in general, but the characters in this book are all a bit ethereal and don’t really display fully developed personalities. The characters works ok because it feels like they’re all drawn by forces over which they have no control, tangled in a web of demonic plans and bounced around by fate. However, it does make it difficult to immediately slip into the voice of the character narrating each section, so it takes a few moments to catch up with who is telling the story in each chapter. This, again, I can cope with, but the narrative also jumps back and forwards in time and I did find it pretty challenging to keep the events straight in my head. Having said that, it still kind of works for this kind of story, where everything is a bit peculiar and the laws of physics, including time, don’t always apply.

Before I finish up, I do have to mention that this book has a really beautiful bit of cover art from John Coulthart. It’s stylish, intriguing and completely eye-catching, with little motifs hidden away in the corners for you to notice later and that tie in to the story very nicely.

‘The Singular And Extraordinary Tale Of Mirror And Goliath’ won’t be to everyone’s taste but the level of creativity in this book is just dazzling. Even if you don’t like the story, there are plenty of titbits to stimulate the imagination and make you want to read it anyway and it will take you on a journey you won’t forget in a hurry. There’s lots to like about it and I’m really looking forward to seeing what strange new worlds Ishbelle Bee opens up for us in the next instalment of this series. Magical!

Vinca Russell

June 2015

(pub: Angry Robot. 272 page small enlarged paperback: Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85766-441-9)

check out website: www.angryrobotbooks.com



Category: Books, Fantasy

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