Review: Greaveburn by Craig Hallam

Greaveburn cover


Greaveburn is a gothic fantasy novel by Craig Hallam, which details the plight of the city of Greaveburn and the ruling dynasty of Glenhaven. Tackling subjects of tyranny, oppression, disenfranchisement, deformity, and revenge, it is packed to the wall with intrigue and action. From the bleakness and stark brutality of the prologue to the bittersweet optimism of the epilogue, this book will hold you in thrall.One of the things that I liked the most about the book was that Greaveburn – the city, rather than the novel – seems so real. There are plenty of fantasy novels out there as any dedicated reader of the genre knows and many of them suffer because there is a dislocation between the land we are being given to imagine and the way it is described. Greaveburn has none of this. From start to finish the city is as real to the reader as London, as Paris, as New York. Neither the broken down slums of the Shackles nor the formalities and socialites of the Inner City are hard to conjure in the imagination; they are painted so vividly for us that we do not have to strain to make them real.

The trappings of the genre are not overdone either – we have elements of steampunk, but they are kept restricted. The fantasy is mixed with reality and there are familiar elements from our own world that keep the setting on the right side of real. In a novel in this genre, it would have been easy to have gone off the rails and had steam powered technology as ubiquitous as water, as well as Frankenstein’s monster like creations all over the place. Fortunately, this is not the case. The trappings do appear, but they are not more important than the plot, even when they serve the plot’s development.

This is all aided by the characters, all of whom are very human and flawed, but at the same time get their moment to shine through with their strongest traits. No one, though, is afforded the chance to be the big hero. That sounds bad, but the naturalism of the heroics – and don’t get me wrong, there are heroics – is a really positive part of the book. I liked that no one had it too easy, that they were still accountable for what happened during their grand plans, rather than the world being painted better and the bad whitewashed in the process. That isn’t real life, and I’m glad that Greaveburn avoided that temptation.

I’m obliged by the reviewing process to offer some criticism, though I don’t really want to. Picking out small niggles will have to do. There are some elements of the cliché of the genre here and there, not in terms of trapping as I mentioned earlier, but just some familiar set ups and so on. I don’t think that’s really a bad thing. It’s not incongruous with the story and I see these as a nod to inspiration, little homages rather than glaring errors. Even where these clichés could be said to exist, they are played with, changed subtly to make them familiar and yet interesting. There are a few too many similes for me, but that’s just a personal taste and others may not share that opinion. Still, I found it a niggle now and again. Also, I don’t know whether this is true of the paperback – I was reading the Kindle edition – there are a couple of proofing errors. That’s neither the author nor the story’s fault, though, so I’m willing to overlook them. And that’s it. Nothing else to report in the negative column, and I’d say that these don’t really count anyway.

All in all, then, it’s a great tale which keeps the action moving from beginning to end. It’s definitely a page-turner and a hugely enjoyable read. There are some bits I just want to tell you about because they’re so good, but I shan’t spoil it. Go and buy it now, read it, and then we can chat about it. Particularly look out for the bit at the end of chapter 29. That was brilliant.

You can buy Greaveburn here and find out more about the author here. You can also follow Craig on Twitter and join him on Facebook.

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