Friday, 11 April 2014

Review: Ghost Hand

Ghost Hand
Ghost Hand by Ripley Patton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know the author slightly through social media and our shared membership of SpecFicNZ, so I've heard a lot from her about how people love this book and keep giving it rave reviews. I found that justified. It didn't meet my own five-star standard (which involves beautiful, not just competent, prose and insightful commentary on the human condition), but it's high up in the fours.

A large part of this is down to the characters. Far from being the usual tropes and stereotypes, they read as real people, and as real teenage people. The adults are not as fleshed out and three-dimensional, but as it's told from a teenager's viewpoint that's almost a feature.

The main (and viewpoint) character, in particular, is very strong. Olivia has a magical power, true, but what really makes her dangerous (including to herself) is her feisty attitude. She's not stupid, either, and is realistically emotionally adept - meaning that she does make mistakes, but she's able to learn from them.

Nobody is unrealistically perfect here. They all have flaws and conflicts, they all make errors of judgement. At the same time, I was left with the sense that they have what they need to rise above their mistakes and triumph.

Looking back on the plot, there's not a single clear through-line. The main character's goals keep changing as she deals with others' actions and the consequences of her own choices. That's not a flaw. Like the imperfections of the characters, it helps the story come to life and feel almost like a narrative of real events, rather than a predetermined plot which functions as a set of rails to send the characters down.

The prose is clean, well towards the competent end of the spectrum. There are some minor issues which I'll discuss with the author, but that's true of most books I read, and apart from a couple of Inigo Montoya words none of them are too significant. This indie book, in fact, has about the same number of errors as the Brandon Sanderson book I read recently from Macmillan, and the Sanderson ones are probably worse, disproving once again the generalisation that self-published books are necessarily inferior products.

A fine start to what looks like being a series worth following.

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