From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up–Jack the Ripper meets the supernatural in this Bosch-like horror tale set in an alternate Victorian London where supernatural "wych-kin" lurk around every corner waiting to prey on humans. Hot on the trail of a vampirelike "Cradlejack," 17-year-old wych-hunter Thaniel stumbles upon beautiful Alaizabel Cray, who unknowingly has been possessed by an "old wych" named Thatch. Determined to rescue Alaizabel from Thatch and the sinister cult responsible for depositing the evil spirit in Alaizabel's body, the innately chivalrous Thaniel slashes and burns his way through a nightmarish city crawling with enough ghastly human and supernatural villains to stock a wax museum. Eerie and exhilarating, this book marks a thematic and stylistic departure from Wooding's earlier, more contemporary teen novels of partying, drug addiction, and pyromania. Instead, he fuses together his best storytelling skills–plotting, atmosphere, shock value–to create a fabulously horrific and ultimately timeless underworld where heroes battle menacing foes to save the world from demonic overthrow.–Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library
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*Starred Review* Gr. 9-12. In Wooding's alternative, Victorian London, a new plague is underway: an infestation of demonic creatures known as wych-kin. Thaniel Fox, a 17-year-old wych-hunter who calls forth both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Indiana Jones, spends his time reducing wych-kin populations with methods that combine magic, superstition, and good old-fashioned gunslinging. After stumbling upon an obviously traumatized young woman on one of his expeditions, he swiftly discovers that she has escaped from the clutches of a powerful cult called the Fraternity. The connections between Alaizabel's plight, rising numbers of wych-kin, and the Fraternity's plans are revealed by tantalizing degrees, as Thaniel; Alaizabel; Thaniel's guardian, Cathaline; and several colorful allies join forces to combat evil on a terrifying scale. This is dark fare, often graphically violent (a Jack-the-Ripper-type serial killer plays a role), but not gratuitously so. Wooding delivers characters to care about, including strong-willed and capable young women, deliciously scary bogeys drawn from world legend and lore, and philosophical underpinnings suggesting an imagination heavily steeped in Tolkien and Pullman. Though the action bogs down a bit in the middle as Wooding assembles his cast of good guys, the atmospheric scene setting and attention to chilling detail ensure his hold on fantasy enthusiasts. Jennifer Mattson
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