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Selling Your Soul Never Works As Planned

A review of James Treadwell's Advent, which could be a case of the right book at the wrong time.

Selling Your Soul Never Works As Planned

BOOK REPORT for Advent by James Treadwell

Cover Story: Atmospheric
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Dense
Bonus Factors: Mythology, Magic, Cornwall
Relationship Status: Potential, If The Timing Was Right

Cover Story: Atmospheric

It's gloomy, shadowy and a little bit creepy, thanks to the birds. It sets just the right tone for the book. Of course, it's not a YA book -- why do I still expect decent covers for YA books?

The Deal:

Gavin's been kicked out of school because he told a teacher he sees things and hears voices. His parents have been trying to get him to stop talking about Miss Grey, his ghostly companion, his whole life, and this was the last straw. Packed off to Cornwall to stay with his dippy aunt at her creepy house Pendurra, Gavin meets a stranger on a train and begins an epic journey that began as far back as 1537, with the famous Dr. Faust -- or maybe even farther. Magic, once gone from the world, is leaking back in, and Gavin is part of that story.

BFF Charm: Maybe

I like Gavin, especially once the book gets going, but I'm holding out on the BFF charm for now. The book unravels so slowly, it's hard to make any judgements yet. I'll definitely keep a charm in reserve for Marina, the strange child who lives in the manor house at which his aunt works -- sheltered from the modern world, she's charmingly naive, but I think she has deep reserves of awesome.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

There's a bit of a love triangle between Gavin, Marina, and Horace, the son of a housecleaner who lives in the village near Pendurra, but as Marina and Horace are 12 or 13, and Gavin is 15, there's not much going on, though there is a promise of more in the next books.

Talky Talk: Dense

I tried to think of a poetic or clever way of describing the writing -- something to do with fog, or mud, or deep water -- but my brain just isn't cooperating, probably because this book took it out of me. I'm no dummy, and just because I like to read YA doesn't mean I'm incapable of reading -- and enjoying -- complex literature (Dickens, Trollope, and George Eliot are favorites of mine), but this book really took it out of me. Maybe because it stretched very little action into very many words, or maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, but the density of this novel felt like more of a chore than a pleasure. But. But! I also don't like Neal Stephenson for the same exact reasons, and many people love him.

One of Treadwell's stylistic choices is to interlace Gavin's story with the older Faust story, telling Faust's story backwards. The narrative voice for the Faust story is baroque and pompous, like Faust himself, and I appreciated the purpose behind it, but as I didn't like Faust at all I found it difficult to enjoy these parts of the tale. Overall, though, the writing is well crafted and clever, despite my personal issues with the pacing.

Bonus Factor: Mythology

Treadwell mixes up Arthurian legend, the Greeks, Faust, and Cornish folklore in this story about the loss and reemergence of magic, and it's cool to see how everything fits together.

Bonus Factor: Magic

Who's not a sucker for a story about magic, especially if you don't have to deal with obnoxious witches like Bonnie from Vampire Diaries? Hell, I've watched every episode of Charmed at least three times, so you know I'll drop everything for a story about magic.

Bonus Factor: Cornwall

I haven't been to Cornwall yet, but I've been enchanted by it since reading Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising books, though only the first one is set there. The folklore and history of the region are fascinating.

Casting Call:

Nicholas Hoult as Gavin

Elle Fanning as Marina

Relationship Status: Potential, If The Timing Was Right

Damn, book. Why did you have to come along now? I know we probably could have really hit it off, and things would have been hot, but the timing is all wrong. First I had another relationship going, and when I was ready for you, you were with that floozy. Now I'm just not sure I'm ready to get as serious as you might want, so we should probably just put this on hold. Too bad, because you have a lot going for you. Maybe next time the timing will be better, and I'll be in the mood.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Atria Books. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Advent is available now.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.