If we here at This Is Horror composed our copy with quill and parchment or typewriter and paper, then the discarded attempts at reviewing The Ravenglass Eye would have required a fleet of bin lorries to transport them away. The novel provides a satisfying and gripping narrative but putting your finger on precisely why it works so well is complicated.
The book tells the story Edie, barmaid and cook at The Tup in the small town of Ravenglass. Edie has a touch of what she terms ‘The Eye’, an ability to glimpse a world beyond our own. So far it’s standard horror fare, but it’s not the originality of the storyline that makes this book so good; it is the masterly execution with which Tom Fletcher weaves the story.
A malevolent spirit, linked to a near-by set of standing stones referred to as the Candle is released and pays several visits to Edie which are amongst the most creepy and well executed scenes within the novel. There is also a minor plot centred on the murder and mutilation of farmer John’s dog that allows for themes of xenophobia and the boredom of youth to be explored, adding a rich depth to the story.
The difficulty alluded to in comprising a review is that when you consider the narrative style, the book is told in a voice that is almost stream-of-consciousness and whilst propelling the pace of the story and creating a dreamlike feel to events it can also be tricky to get into at first and distracting in places. With the cast of characters, some of whom are bland whilst others are downright repugnant, it can be hard to finger exactly why it feels such a satisfying read.
Take the main character Edie for instance. We see events through her eyes, yet she is not a terribly likeable character, seeming flaky and directionless at times. This provides an element of the unreliable narrator that enhances the mystery and lends an ambiguity to the story. The collection of locals that frequent The Tup, from the quiet and insular farmer John to the vulgar and bigoted Philip, veer close to feeling like clichés from a dark and brooding 70s horror film. Yet conversely, this helps to create the uncomfortable feeling that the reader is an outsider who has wandered into a locals-only pub. Ultimately, Fletcher is too talented a writer to leave these characters feeling like cardboard cut-outs and he fleshes out their back-stories with consummate skill.
It is refreshing to see a writer, with just a couple of novels under his belt, having the confidence to try something different and if the reader can get comfortable with the voice of the piece they will be rewarded with an evocative novel which thrusts the reader right into the centre of a gothic, supernatural mystery.
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