Review: Never the Bride by Paul Magrs

Genre: Urban fantasy, alternative reality, pastiche.

I'm not going to give any plot summary here, since the plot hinges on so many secrets that I might give one away by accident. 

Never the Bride builds on an interesting, if not exactly original premise: the old Gothic horror stories describe real historical events and there really are more things in Heaven and Earth (and Hell) than Horatio could have dreamt.

The Bride of Frankenstein is real and lives in Whitby; the Invasion from Mars really happened; vampires walk the earth; and there are more spooky goings-on in the Goth capital of Britain than you can shake a stick at.

Oh, and the book is full of cliches, just like the last two paragraphs. That's not to say it isn't entertaining, but there is something missing. The narrative is episodic rather than linear and while the stories that make up each episode do connect into a plot of sorts, there are so many loose ends flapping in the breeze that you can see not one, but several sequels looming up. None of the characters are fully developed, although Effie comes close to being more than a stereotypical elderly spinster, and Brenda shows promise of being developed into something deeper.

Some of the longer conversations are quite stilted, and there is a very stilted monologue in which the person talking speaks as if they are reading from a book. This could have been much better rendered by incorporating the story told therein into Brenda's general narrative, and even then it would still be a case of telling rather than showing, a mistake I would not have expected from as seasoned an author as Magrs, because this is such a common mistake of inexperienced writers.

As for the good points, the depiction of Brenda and Effie's friendship is realistic, showing both the ups and downs of friendship between two unusual women who are still getting to know each other. The story is also peppered with darkly funny incidents and descriptions that will at the least elicit chuckles, if not outright laughter.

The tone is almost like that of a children's book, written in fairly simple language (and thus suitable for intermediary learners of English), but it is clearly written for adults. At least one would assume so, what with descriptions of gruesome deaths and allusions to sex.

Despite the faults, I did enjoy reading this book, and while I'm in no hurry to obtain the next book in the series, I wouldn't mind reading it if I came across it.

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