Eclectic Reader Challenge – Urban Fantasy – Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

So despite having finished the Eclectic Reader Challenge, here I am posting reviews again. I’m not sure yet whether I will plan the next eleven books I read to fit with the challenge but I am certainly going to post a review when I read a book that fits.

This is one from my to be read pile. When Ray Bradbury died last year, I realised I had not read very much of his writing at all. Fahrenheit 451, a couple of short stories – a mere drop in the ocean of Bradbury’s extensive bibliography. So I went out and bought Something Wicked This Way Comes. It then took me a year to get round to reading it. Boy, am I glad I picked it up.

This book is creepy from the very first. It is set the week before Halloween. One of the boys is called Jim Nightshade. A lightening rod salesman called Tom Fury gives the boys a rod ahead of the coming storm. The scene was definitely set.

An archetypal battle between good and evil ensues. Jim and his friend Will are on the cusp of manhood, are desperate to be older, to be different and the carnival owner Mr Dark knows exactly how to give them that future. At a price, of course, there is always a price to be paid.


Bradbury does not miss an opportunity to sent chills up the readers spine. The descriptions of the fairground rides and of the various circus freaks are some of the most blood-curdling I have come across. Of course, I already had some belief in the creepiness, the evilness of the carnival. Bradbury plays on those childhood fears throughout.

The ending of this book – the triumph in the end of good – felt like a merciful relief. I genuinely felt worry that Will and Jim would not survive their boyhood. I won’t spoil the ending but the way in which good triumphs is truly a joy to behold and it certainly made me feel warm again after all the chills.

Bradbury claimed that his own fears of the carnival started at age four and it seems never really left him. I hope that after writing this book, he was able to be a little bit freer from them.

Eclectic Reader Challenge – Urban Fantasy – Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A long time ago, I read Neil Gaiman’s series of Sandman graphic novels. I was introduced to them by a friend and it was against my better judgement that I started to read them. Making an early start on my career as an intellectual snob, I reckoned they weren’t going to be up to much. Boy was I wrong! I really enjoyed the stories, the characters and the clear and shining light that is Gaiman’s imagination. As a result, I had been meaning to read one of Gaiman’s novels for quite some time now.

So when looking at the genre of Urban Fantasy for The Eclectic Reader Challenge on Goodreads and I realised that I was able to choose a Gaiman, I was really pleased. I chose the one that I already had on my shelf, Stardust.

This book is quite different from what I would normally read, taking the form, as it does, of an adult fairy tale. It is a simple story but it also has depth and as with all good fairy tales it contains lessons and, of course, a happy ending.

There is a pleasantly old fashioned feel to the book. It is set in Victorian times and the folklore and mythology that is referred to seem apt for this setting. The theme of going on a quest for your heart’s desire, only to discover that it is something different from what you thought is also a tale that has been told for a long time. Yet Gaiman manages to give it a new and interesting twist.


What I really enjoyed about this novel was Gaiman’s style and the to

ne of the writing which was perfect for the telling of a fairy tale. It is like sitting down around a campfire and being told a tale that you could al

most half believe in, by that friendly fellow traveller who looks like he might have lived out the story he is telling. In fact, you leave this novel longing for a

place such as faerie to exist – how the inhabit

ants of Wall manage to exist knowing that the faerie lands are right next door is beyond me.

Having said all that, this is not a genre I am particularly fond of and while this was a fun read, I’m not sure that I would be interested in reading much more like it. I prefer my fairy tales to be darker, if truth be told and I’m not very good with happy endings either. As this is a fairy tale, the characters are quite simple and while that obviously fits with the genre, I prefer my heroes to be, at the very least, ambiguous.