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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Leap of Faith - Book review

Richard Hardie’s YA novel, Leap of Faith, the first in the Temporal Detective Agency series, is great fun. Narrated by Tertia, it brings to mind Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, as the same kind of wry and dry humour is in evidence.

Teenage Tersh and her cousin Unita (Neets) are apprentices of Merlin. The famous wizard is actually a woman, wouldn’t you know? Well, now you do. Keep up. These nearly-wizards are Merl’s Girls (hoping that the BBC doesn’t ban this term!), members of the Temporal Detective Agency (along with Marlene, the sister of the more famous Merlin), that is time travellers who happen to have the odd handy nifty time portal. Beats commuting. Zzzzzzzp.

When the duo investigate the missing statue of Nelson, having vanished off his column, they end up on the Welsh coast in the past; Port Eynon, 1734. They meet up with Bryn; as Tertia muses,  ‘… he wasn’t all that bad looking for a boy. If he played his cards right he stood a chance of a date, I reckoned, even if I was a thousand years older than him. Maybe he liked older women.’

Hardie never lets up with the pace, thrusting Neets into one predicament after another. There is quite a bit of history behind her, obviously! And it now, perhaps predictably, turns up to haunt them in the guise of the Black Knight, who escaped his due comeuppance at Camelot. Problem is that Sir Galahad isn’t interested in chasing bad knights, he’d rather attend to his new restaurant, the Olé Grill, not to be confused with the Holy Grail, which he purportedly found...


Thrown into the mix is police inspector Smollett, with his illegal truncheon; he was snatched into the time portal and his life was never the same again: ‘water poured from his shoes onto the carpet and added to the pool I’d created earlier. Of course his feet were several times larger than mine so he dripped longer and more thoroughly.’
The most calming thing is a cup of Merl Grey, apparently. And we need bucketsful as the pace quickens. We soon learn that Bryn’s father isn’t quite who he seems… Mystery and plot thicken, though the Merl Grey remains digestible and drinkable. There are a few likeable characters to meet too, notably Mrs Jones, a fantastic cook and marvellous eater. Not to be confused with Miss Jones, the head teacher, who employs Tersh briefly to mesmerise the children with her tales of derring-don’t do this at home stuff. There’s romance in the air, too, but not too soppy – this is a YA book, after all, and there are more serious things to write about, like swordfights and betrayal and hidden ill-gotten treasure…
Temporal paradoxes are acknowledged too – ‘One of Neets’s temporal anemones…’ Tersh observed knowingly.

The title relates to the cliff-top – from where people can make a leap of faith… and die… Very significant, that. Won’t say more on the subject, save that the ending is moving and the imagery works very well. I liked the sentence and sentiment – ‘Time for a group smile, then.’
I felt that maybe some of the chapter headings gave away too much about what was to happen; or perhaps they were intended to reassure the reader. Minor quibble.
Recommended. Please zzzzzzzzp it into your e-reader  or buy the book and enjoy.
[A shorter version of this review will appear on Amazon…]


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