Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Raven's Gate - Anthony Horowitz

I've not read any of Anthony Horowitz's books before, although I've heard a lot about Alex Rider from various sources, so it was with some interest that I picked up Raven's Gate from the library. It's billed as a supernatural fantasy thriller (!) To be honest, I didn't find it all that supernatural - some of the Diana Wynne Jones books I've read lately were far more supernatural; and sadly I didn't find it that thrilling either... However, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it ! It's a fairly engaging tale and I imagine that young male fans of Harry Potter, as well as fans of Alex Rider, will enjoy it (it's billed as being suitable for 8-12 year olds and that seems very accurate to me).

Matthew Freeman is 14 and an orphan. His parents were killed in a car crash when he was 8 years old. Since then he's being living with his mother's half-sister and her partner; they only took him in for the sake of the money his parents had left him, which they proceeded to spend like water, and once it was gone, they resented his presence. As a result Matt has drifted into petty crime: stealing things from supermarkets, truanting from school. When the book opens Matt is waiting for his friend Kelvin to meet him - they're off to rob a warehouse that's stocked with DVDs, CDs, MP3 players, mobile phones, etc., all waiting to be transported to shops. Kelvin's older brother had told him that there was only one guard, an older man who was always half asleep - and no security system. They break in easily enough, but things go wrong very soon afterwards, and Matt finds himself arrested as an accessory to Kelvin's attempted murder of the security guard and the attempted burglary. Since he's too young to go to prison, Matt is offered the chance to volunteer for the LEAF project: Liberty and Education Achieved through Fostering - a typical government project that is meant to massage the figures of juvenile delinquents being kept in custody. Unfortunately for Matt he's fostered to Mrs Deverill who lives in Lesser Malling, Yorkshire, and is (presumably without the authorities knowing) a witch. What's more, she knows about Matt's past - particularly the fact that he has precognitive powers. He had, in fact, dreamt about the fatal car crash the night before his parents were killed, but he hadn't told his parents that was why he didn't want to go with them, because he knew his father (a doctor) would be cross. During the course of the book, Matt tells his story to a young man who has more or less befriended him, and reveals that he's had such dreams since he was quite young and when he'd told his parents about one or two of them, he'd been accused of making things up. For 6 years he's lived with the guilt of knowing that he could have prevented his parents' death if he had told them about the dream.

Knowing about Matt's power, Mrs Deverill is convinced that Matt is one of the Five - a group of four boys and one girl who possess great Power to fight and defeat the Old Ones. She intends that he will be the human sacrifice for Roodmas, when she and the other villagers of Lesser Malling will bring one of the Old Ones through the Raven's Gate. Much of the book consists of a series of attempts to escape or get help on Matt's part - but unfortunately almost everyone who attempts to help him ends up dead - and in the end Matt realises that he has to learn how to use his Power if he is to save himself. There is a shadowy secret organisation called Nexus who know all about Raven's Gate, the Five and the Old Ones, and they also try to help, with only limited success (at least one of them ends up dead).

This book was quite interesting, and I shall certainly look out for Evil Star next Spring - and in the meantime, I just might give Horowitz's Alex Rider novels a try...


Kelly said...

Hi Michele!
My 9-year-old girl loves these as well, even though they're aimed at boys. I think that speaks to the fact that they are pretty good novels overall. Nice review,

Michele said...

Then I'll borrow at least the first Alex Rider novel from the library... I confess I'm not that much of a Bond fan - until Dame Judi Dench took over as M, I'd never watched a Bond film all the way through ! But I'm guessing these will be slightly different (presumably Alex doesn't hop into bed with every available woman ?!)

Camille said...

They are filming the first Alex Rider right now, Stephen Fry and our boy, Andy Serkis are going to be in it.

I was surprised and pleased to see that Horowitz is the screen writer for one of my favorite drama series, Foyle's War. I love all the characters and the research he does to is amazing.

I get quite a kick out of Alex. I am reading the 3rd one right now.

Michele said...

Well I didn't pick up the first Alex Rider yet as I'm too engrossed in exploring Alan Garner's work at the moment... But I'll definitely read the first one at some point in the not-too-distant future !

I'd heard about the Alex Rider film, but I don't think I knew Stephen Fry and Andy Serkis were in it - hopefully AS will be playing a human being so we'll get to see him acting for once !