Something Red by Douglas Nicholas
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
During the thirteenth century in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable yet charming Irish healer, Molly, and the troupe she leads are driving their three wagons, hoping to cross the Pennine Mountains before the heavy snows set in.
Molly, her lover Jack, granddaughter Nemain, and young apprentice Hob become aware that they are being stalked by something terrible. The refuge they seek in a monastery, then an inn, and finally a Norman castle proves to be an illusion. As danger continues to rise, it becomes clear that the creature must be faced and defeated—or else they will all surely die. It is then that Hob discovers how much more there is to his adopted family than he had realized.
An intoxicating blend of fantasy and mythology, Something Red presents an enchanting world full of mysterious and fascinating characters— shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and knights—where no one is safe from the terrible being that lurks in the darkness. In this extraordinary, fantastical world, nothing is as it seems, and the journey for survival is as magical as it is perilous.
Something Red is not what I would consider a typical fantasy novel, but that is not a criticism. It is set in 13th century England and is both a coming of age tale and a haunting mystery. There are definitely fantasy elements and magicin it, but they are not revealed or understood initially. Part of what sets it apart is that it is told from the perspective of young Hob, a 13 year old orphan (see… it is a fantasy book, it has an orphan boy as the protagonist 😉 ), who is traveling with Molly, a stoic, strong female who is leading the group, her lover Jack and her granddaughter Neiman. The difference, to me, what set it apart, was that Hob has no knowledge of magic, or strange fantastical creatures. The story centers on Hob’s journey with Molly and the others and the fear of the unknown that was wreaking havoc around them. What is going on is left for the reader to discover as the story progresses and Hob himself discovers and understands it.
This is not a fast paced book, even during the parts that contain “action”. But it is a wonderfully vivid book. I found the authors descriptive prose to be beautifully written. It was lyrical and the imagery and sounds surrounding the settings were so masterfully created. I honestly can not think of another novel I have read that has accomplished this to the level that Nicholas has in this book. Others may disagree, but what he did, worked really well for me. I will also mention that perhaps the vividness, and flow of the prose should not be surprising since Nicholas is a poet (and an award winning one at that).
The book is not perfect, I could make some criticisms for parts that I would like to see done differently (or not at all), but those are minor and overall, this was a very enjoyable read, and something different.