'The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles, Skelly's Square' Book Review.
Blurb: They want him to save the world. But, first, he must save himself. Kirkwood Scott is having a bad day. Languishing in a dead end job and recently dumped by his girlfriend he struggles with a crippling form of OCD which manifests itself in the form of Colonel Augustus Skelly, a phantom voice from Kirkwood’s childhood who controls his every waking moment via a series of tortuous routines, ‘The 49’. Kirkwood has little to look forward to, bar a weekend of drunken oblivion in Belfast with his equally deadbeat friends. All that changes when he meets Meredith Starc, a young homeless woman struggling to survive on the streets and come to terms with her own troubled past. Kirkwood realises Meredith may hold the answer to him finally being free of his mental demons. But what if Skelly is more than just a voice? Kirkwood and Meredith join forces to unearth a supernatural battle raging on the city’s back streets between ancient forces of good or evil, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the planet. Between them, they hold the key to saving mankind from a new Dark Age but can they survive long enough to do so as Skelly unleashes a legion of vicious ghost soldiers upon the unsuspecting city? ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ is a fast paced and darkly humorous supernatural fantasy guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
TW- Homelessness, Death, Suicide, Drugs, Alcoholism, Grief, Anxiety, OCD, Depression.
"And so it begins, the not so beautiful journey that would take Kirkwood Scott to the brink of madness"
Stephen Black, author of 'The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles, Skelly's Square' is undoubtedly a genius. His debut novel was nothing other than a masterpiece. Unquestionably one of the best novels that I have ever read. It was artistically crafted to perfection. Black's dedication to his writing is clearly apparent putting his heart and soul into each individual word.
In this book, we accompany the expedition of Kirkwood's life, his journey to self discovery and the reason behind his mental health, his struggle with OCD, and another thing that I cannot possibly mention due to major spoilers! This novel was incredibly unique, in the offset we read through the revelations of war, set in the 1800's (waterloo) the importance of this is not revealed until further on, which I loved.
One of my favourite aspects of Black's novel was the time shift narrative heightening the readers emotional impact, creating tension and suspense in the most perfect places. This shift in narrative reflecting back to war and flitting to Kirkwood's innocent childhood memories, added to the interpretations of what was to come later in the plot. Thus encouraging a detailed understanding helping to emphasise my analysis of the text.
The use of the analepsis with injected scenes emphasised the ability to convey the crucial backstory. The narrative also constricted of multiple POV'S in third person, each enabling an insight into their unique perspectives and voice. This third person narrative allows readers inside their head, their attributes, and their flaws at arms length, Although some readers may find this aspect of a narrative as some sort of detachment, I feel as though Black's development of this worked well, as it reflected extensively where the reader was able to distinguish between opinions and facts.
Another favourite of mine was Black's epistolary narrative (the letters to Emily) to emphasise the true closeness of their relationship and a personal insight into many unrevealed emotions, conveying the shape of events with dramatic immediacy. I adored Black's usage of short chapters, helping to pace the acceleration of the plot in a less intimidating way, presenting his ideas carefully, yet creating suspense and a rapid change of viewpoint.
When I first saw the crossed-path hybrid genre (sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural) in the blurb when purchasing the book, I was unsure how a book could possibly fulfil all of them in one novel, yet Black blended this intelligently giving readers something familiar, yet tapping into various genres to emphasise the fresh and realistic themes.
Although representing some hard hitting themes, such as disability, bullying and their repercussions and consequences, relationship breakdowns, I think Black presented these impeccably and with grace. Although these settings were conveyed, the relationship between Kirkwood and Meredith was full of wit and humour despite battling through grief and intense anxiety, quickly changing the readers uneasy emotions, to a lighter, more quirkier feel.
As a reader, and book reviewer, character development is a huge must for me otherwise it's a straight forward DNF. The level of detail astonished me in this area as we explored the Mc's strengths and weaknesses, their pasts and their dreams and their serious flaws. I ended up falling in love with each individual character...apart from Skelly of course!
"This is only going to end one way, we will win and you will lose, never say you weren't warned"
This novel was a long read, with a slow burn, but was intelligently orchestrated to reel me in to the point that I could honestly not put this down, and in turn having to read slower, as I didn't want it to finish, I would recommend this book to anyone, and I can't wait to get my hands on the prequel. If you are looking for a new book to read, you NEED this in your life, even if you read it just once, the lessons in love and loyalty that you will learn from is incredible. After getting to know the author on a more personal level during the course of reading this book, I was also drawn to tears at the personal elements of his life that was portrayed. Delving through each chapter, I thought I could predict some events, yet I was sorely mistaken. Each chapter made my jaw drop, the twists and the turns, but again, without spoilers the personification and the manifestation of certain beings were thrilling and exciting. It's rare to find a book entwined with all of these characteristics the wit, yet the psychological drama and of course, the EXPLOSIVE ending.
Thank you Stephen, for writing such an incredible book, I adore your writing. I can't wait to have you on the blog for your interview in due course.
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