The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 3, 2009
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“Not to the south, though; not in the Old Quarter. That was the domain of the mad and the crooked and the things best left unthought of” (Wooding 1). The British born author Chris Wooding doesn’t even hesitate to begin the book with a foreboding sentence such as this. That is probably also the reason that The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize in England, Wooding doesn’t hold anything back no matter how far along in the book the reader happens to be. His other books: Poison and the Braided Path series prove to be just as entertaining although not quite as well written as The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray.

The way Wooding allows the reader to see inside the minds and hearts of the characters greatly heightens not only the emotional ties that develop throughout the novel but the character vs. self aspect of the book as well. For example, the way Wooding shows the reader inside Alaizabel’s head during her struggle to control Thatch, the evil spirit sharing her body, further allows a personal connection with her struggle to occur. “Who are you? !!Sit down, little girl!! came the harsh reply, lashing her like a whip. She retreated inside her own head” (Wooding 73). Wooding has a gift for putting you not only in the same room and situation as the character but he puts you in the same state of emotional distress or emotional joy the character is in.

The story takes place in the London of about eighty years ago. The main plot line in the book follows the late-night activities and venture of a wych-hunter named Thaniel Fox, who turns out to be the son of the most famous wych-hunter in all of England and possibly the world. First it should be pointed out that a wych-hunter hunts wych-kin which include but are not limited to a wide range of mythological and superstition-related monsters and beings. The wych-kin in the story are used as tools by wyches to wreak havoc on London and even kill certain people or commit acts of great evil. The main plot line also follows a young girl named Alaizabel Cray whom is a protagonist in the story and simultaneously is a victim. Alaizabel meets Thaniel in the beginning and the two become inseparable through the rest of the book. They discover that and organization called The Fraternity has a master scheme for London; they want to use the spirit inside of Alaizabel to open a portal between the human world and the place the wych-kin exist in permanently. The resulting effect would be death to almost all human life on Earth. Throughout the book however there is a recurring sub-plot, that of the killer Stitch-face. “Certainly, if Stitch-face was only a man, then he had been diabolically clever at avoiding the attentions of the Peelers. A reign of terror that had lasted for a decade and a half , and still there was no clue to who he was except for a few sightings from those who had survived his attentions, which had gained him his nickname” (Wooding 86). The reader finds out towards the end that Stitch-face knows all about the plot to destroy London and that he sides with Thaniel and the rest of the wych-hunters and those who desire to live and not die. In the end almost all of the Fraternity is killed during the ritual and Thaniel and Alaizabel leave London to continue their walk through life together.

The book allows the readers mind to drift through the fantasy world without it being too complex or intertwined that the reader gets bored or confused. I personally thought the book was fantastically well-written and I liked how it showed me into a fantasy world I had never seen before, so what I’m saying is that I liked the fact it didn’t re-hash old worlds in an attempt to make them new and different. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys, in general, fiction and fantasy although you do not have to be a die-hard fan of either to like this book. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray is a great read and although its author isn’t famous this book would gain national popularity if only more people read it.





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