Thursday, 27 August 2009

‘The Naming of the Beasts’ – Mike Carey (Orbit)


It’s a well known fact, around these parts, that any new adventures of Felix Castor will be bumped right up to the top of the reading pile as a matter of due course. Especially after the cliff-hanger ending in ‘Thicker than Water’... 2009 has turned out to be a good year for fans of Felix Castor (I’ll ‘fess up to being a fan if you hadn’t guessed already) with the forthcoming ‘The Naming of the Beasts’, look for it on September 3rd, following on from February’s ‘Thicker than Water’.
I started reading this one almost as soon as I’d taken it out of the packaging. The next thing I knew, a day had passed (where did it go?) and I’d finished it. ‘The Naming of the Beasts’ is that good; fans of the series have got a real treat in store...

Following on from the climatic events of ‘Thicker than Water’, Felix Castor has decided that the best way to deal with his problems is to drink himself stupid. That will only get you so far though, especially when an incredibly powerful demon is running around in the body of your best friend. Castor doesn’t want any more blood on his hands (there is enough there already), it’s time to sober up and get on the case. Sobering up is the easy part though, when you’re facing off against a Lord of Hell you need far more than just luck on your side. Castor is going to have to work all the angles like he has never worked them before...

You know that feeling you get when you’ve just finished reading the latest instalment in a favourite series? There’s still some adrenalin after the buzz of the final few pages and, at the same time, you’re feeling really content (like you’ve just polished off a really nice meal and there’s the promise of more to come in the future). Well, that’s exactly how I felt after finishing ‘The Naming of the Beasts’. Carey has maintained a high standard throughout this series and he doesn’t let up here!

‘The Naming of the Beasts’ isn’t so much a continuation of the main ‘story arc’ (at least not as far as I could tell, I might be proved wrong in the next books though) as it is a case of concluding the events from the previous book. If you’re after answers to more wide ranging questions then you will probably have to wait until the next book. This doesn’t do anything to the flow of the book but the flow of the series itself felt a little jerky by the end of this book... The plot line that Carey wraps up here though is still a significant one and readers will come away with some sense of closure at least. It makes me wonder what is still to come if Carey is willing to wrap this plot up early...
As I mentioned when looking at ‘Child of Fire’ (scroll down for the review), a lot of Urban Fantasy seems to be about solving a mystery/problem that has become very urgent. ‘The Naming of the Beasts’ plays to this same rule but Carey takes things to a whole new level by ramping up the scale of the threat and showing some real genius, on Castor’s part, in the way it is resolved. I loved the way the story fits together so that the most innocuous discovery can become crucial to the whole plot by the end... Carey does well to make everything fit together the way he does; when this is coupled with the sense of urgency (Carey writes a mean ‘haunting scene’) running through the book you end up with a tale that demands to be read.

If this wasn’t enough there’s also a growing sense that something big is looming on the horizon that has almost nothing to do with the drama being acted out by the characters. Not only does this promise great things from the next book but it makes Castor’s London even gloomier than it already is. The brooding atmosphere is the perfect ingredient to make what’s going on even more compelling. I’m thinking about what happens in the ‘Super Self’ gym...

When I reviewed ‘Thicker than Water’ I was a little concerned that Castor’s character was starting to stagnate and there was no room left for him to develop further; ‘The Naming of the Beasts’ showed me that Castor has more room in this regard than I thought. Castor is a man who operates most effectively when he’s at rock bottom and circumstances here are constantly forcing him down a lot further than he has ever been. Not only do we se Castor’s brain work like never before but we also get more of an idea of how far he is prepared to push himself to do the right thing by his friends. Felix Castor is a good man, no matter what he might have to say on the matter.

‘The Naming of the Beasts’ is Mike Carey’s best outing yet for Felix Castor. Book six cannot come soon enough as far as I’m concerned!

Nine and Three Quarters out of Ten

3 comments:

Simon said...

Excellent, funnily enough I ordered this off amazon earlier today (along with Dust of Dreams and the Eisenhorn omnibus). Theres a couple of weeks decent reading!

Mardel said...

I was lucky enough to win Dead Man's Boots by Mike Carey. Someone very sweetly gave me the first two books. So I am almost finished with The Devil You Know, and I am so glad I have these books. They're good. So I'm looking forward to catching up and continuing with this series.

Graeme Flory said...

Simon - You're in for a bit of a treat with this one. It does sound like you've got some good reading ahead of you! :o)

Mardel - Pretty much what I said to Simon really ;o) If you liked the other books in the series then you will love this too!