The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison
Yay! Been so looking forward to this review – in fact, technically I reckon you could read this if you were an older 9-12 reader, but I couldn’t wait until next week’s 9-12 slot to post this so I just stuck it under Teen.
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Drake Finn moves to a new school and a new home after an unfortunate incident leads to his old school being blown up, his own expulsion from said school, and the deaths of several frogs. Whilst exploring his new home though, he discovers a shed hiding in the overgrowth masquerading as the back garden. This is not just any shed though, as it is in fact an out-of-reality shed that just so happens to house the 3 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who seem to spend most of their time playing board games whilst hanging around waiting for the replacement Death to show up. The previous Deaths all met rather ignominious (always wanted to use that word!) ends, usually concluding in death, suicide or, memorably, goldfish. The Three Remaining Horsemen (War, Pestilence and Famine) insist that Drake is the one they’ve been waiting for to become the new Death and ignore all his protests to the contrary. Meanwhile, Drake has to try to avoid aggravating his new teacher, who seems to have it in for him for some reason, and has managed to make friends with quite possibly The Oddest Female Character I’ve Read.
I LOVE this book. Any book that features great chunks of witty banter is a winner for me but this one….. gah, I just love it! It’s absolutely hilarious and I genuinely found myself bursting out into fits of the giggles whilst reading it (which did not please my sister at all at five in the morning). It’s easy to compare the writing style to Terry Pratchett but whilst I’ve never quite managed to get into Pratchett, this book I fell into easily and deeply.
The Three Horseman are brilliant – a huge great red-headed Scot serves as War (I have an image in my head of one of the World’s Strongest Men in my head, only elongated and carrying an axe), a man-mountain with a continuous appetite who can and will eat anything (including board games) is Famine, and Pestilence is a paranoid neatfreak clothed in sterile scrubs with a tissue always to hand. Decidedly un-PC (Famine for example doesn’t have a horse to ride on – no, he has a mobility scooter) and with some mild language (b**ger etc), this is an absolute delight to read. I devoured it in a few hours and was left feeling disappointed I’d read it so fast once I’d finished. Happily though, the second in the series The Book of Doom is out soon (complete with golden swanky pants!)! Please excuse me while I throw a few streamers and look at the trailer here (check out his video stream while you’re there, I especially love the dominos).
I know I’ve mentioned it before but it’s such a fantastic and brilliantly generous idea it’s worth mentioning again. Barry Hutchison is one half of the online magazine and resource centre Start the Story alongside Tommy Donbavand (popular Scream Street author and cracking Doctor Who writer too to boot!). This was originally a subscriptive online magazine but these two generous souls have now made it completely free. The idea is to help boost literacy and provide resources for teachers to use. It’s a brilliant idea and I salute it and I really recommend you go and take a peek for yourself.
Find the book here
Start the Story is here