Thursday, 27 February 2014

Call Down Thunder

Call Down Thunder
Daniel Finn
London, Macmillan, 2013, 306p

I didn't expect to enjoy this novel as much as I did. For some reason, the blurb set me up for a fantasy, though re-reading that now I cannot recall why. And yet, although initially challenge to engage with, I found myself enthralled as the plot developed.

Reve works the boats in the docks, bringing in fish and selling them to make a living. The town is impoverished, run by a dangerous and aggressive seƱor. And Reve's sister, Mi, wants to track down their mother, who abandoned them eight years ago. When they start asking questions about where she is, some of the answers probably aren't what the two teenagers wanted to hear.

My initial problem with this novel was the language - specifically the dialogue. Whilst the descriptive passages are vivid and detailed, the conversation was dialectic, and I struggled to grasp it. Some of the descriptive passages are also colloquial, with sentences running on from line to line, but I felt this added to the tension and drama. And as the story went on, I became accustomed to the language and gripped by the characters and their adventures.

The story is carried by violence, drug dealing and gun crime, and the two young protagonists get caught up in the drama whilst innocently trying to find answers about their mother. It is unclear where Call Down Thunder is set, but I assume it is South America due to some cultural  and geographical references. I am not sure if it is good or bad that the location is not specified, because, regardless, the setting was incredibly real to me. The small fishing village in which Reve lives is brought to life amongst the violence and drama; and later, the characters venture to the city, which is buzzing and thriving with life and terror.

Reve is a great lead character - he is loyal and sensitive, but also wise and brave. But I was disappointed by the females in this book. The adult women fell into stereotypical categories of wife and lover, whilst Mi, Reve's teenage sister, was labelled a witch within the story. She is thought to have magical powers, which are revered and feared by the villagers in equal measure. In fact, a rational explanation would suggest that she suffered from fits and was mildly autistic. I wavered between seeing her as a brave, independent young woman to being frustrated that she was so dependent upon the men around her, and was trapped by the burden of her epilepsy. And I am unwilling to ruin the ending, but that didn't do her many favours, either.

Yet, overall, I would recommend Call Down Thunder. It is original and feisty, keeping you intrugied with mystery and drama.

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