Review: Advent by James Treadwell

I have come to the conclusion that Hodder & Stoughton are the nicest people in the entire, entire world. Like, in a Maria Von Trapp kind of way, although I am yet to receive a package of hand-crafted clothing made from curtains. However, I did receive a copy of Advent by James Treadwell, which is very nearly as good, if not better – England in mid-March just ain’t the place for Lederhosen anyway.

For centuries it has been locked away, lost beneath the sea, warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight.

But now magic is rising to the world once more.

And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall.

No one will be there to meet him. 

It’s not the most explanatory summary I’ve ever seen, but it does set the tone quite well. Thirteen year old Gavin realised a long time ago that it was best to keep quiet about the strange creatures he can see, otherwise his parents get exasperated and his mother cries. That’s why it’s such a relief when he discovers he is going to stay with a ‘crazy’ relative in Cornwall – he’ll finally be able to relax and maybe learn a few things. But when Aunt Gwen doesn’t turn up to meet him and he’s left to wander round a mysterious old house with Marina, a younger girl who he suspects can also see the things he does, Gavin starts to suspect all is not what it seems.

According to his website, James Treadwell is an academic specialising in eighteenth and nineteenth century literature – and it shows in Advent. He uses an incredibly complex sentence structure throughout –  long sentences, abstract nouns and far too many qualifying clauses to constitute an easy read. It can be quite difficult to follow at times, so it’s not a book to pick up if you’re tired, or your head hurts, or your mother-in-law is down for a visit. I also struggled to dredge up the inclination to pick it back up after I’d put it down. It took at least a few pages every time to fully re-immerse myself in the story again.

That said, the complex tone somehow intensifies the atmosphere, which Advent excels at. I can’t see the book being half as mysterious if it were written like Spot the Dog. From the beginning, there’s an aura of dusky suspense hanging over the whole thing that leaves you begging for your questions to be answered. That need to know is what keeps you reading, what keeps you turning the pages with a desire to understand exactly what keeps chasing Gavin and why Aunt Gwen didn’t show at the train station. It’s the unknown that provides the entire focus for the book.

Every so often the narrative takes a break from following Gavin, and returns to 1537 where we instead trail a mysterious magus.  These chapters are even more confusing than the usual ones, as they’re actually written backwards. Chronologically, obviously – I don’t mean that er’yeht nettirw ekil siht. It’s a real struggle to deal with, especially when you add in James Treadwell’s attempt to keep this character obscure. He succeeded a little too well, unfortunately, and it ended up being frustrating rather than mysterious.

Gavin himself was wonderfully developed and completely ‘real’ however. I didn’t like the way he dealt with Marina at the beginning, but he seemed to grow a little as the book continued. He was a perfectly believable little boy, if a little selfish occasionally. I admit that I loved Marina though – I just wanted to take her home and give her a hug!

I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re willing to put in the effort. It’s strange in that it seems to have a YA plot with an adult tone and language – but who doesn’t like to mix things up every so often? It’s a promising start to a trilogy regardless, so I’ll definitely be picking up the next one.

Visit James Treadwell’s website here.


  1. Nerd Girls says:

    Sounds as though it's an interesting read. I think that some complex sentences might be a refreshing change of pace for me, although I'll have to make sure to read it when I'm able to really concentrate on what I'm reading.

    Great review!

    Jenny at Books to the Sky

  2. Raimy-rawr says:

    Ive got this one but Ive heard so many people say its a tough read that Im putting it off! I need to just boot myself up the arse and read it thought because it sounds really good!

  3. Farhana says:

    Wow sounds like a very interesting book! Lovely review, it's not often that I come across a review detailed enough to comment on the writer's syntax!

  4. I so want to read this book! (I think I may have mentioned this before.)

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