Something Red

In his first novel, Something Red, Douglas Nicholas channels a fiercer beast than his usual poetic muse, producing a remarkable variation on the perennial werewolf tale. Set in 13th-century England, the novel chronicles the journey of a boy named Hob, his wise and fey mistress Molly, her spirited granddaughter Nemain and the indestructible Jack. As they move through cold and hushed winter forests, they become gradually aware of something terrifying out among the trees, a creature that is not simply trailing them, but herding them. Hoping to elude both the monster and a ferocious blizzard, the small band settles into the castle of a minor northern lord, but it soon becomes obvious that the creature hides amongst them. As their refuge becomes a trap, Molly unleashes a powerful force of her own, revealing to Hob some shattering truths about the nature of good and evil and about his own place in the world.

Nicholas handles characterization, setting and atmosphere deftly and expertly. And then there's the language. Nicholas writes with an authentic historical prose that both anchors the story and conveys the fascinating movement of a language in flux. There are moments that are simple in terms of plot but written with such startling beauty that they imbue the larger story with a kind of perverse joy, making Hob's coming-of-age not simply a matter of fear and necessity, but of strength and love. Something Red is an excellent debut from a gifted author. --Judie Evans, librarian

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