This is a very peculiar book on many levels. The writing is peculiar: simple prose that is able to paint a grand, bizarre tale. The premise is peculiar: an adult novel that is quite short and juvenile in context. And, finally—and certainly the most important of the three: the story itself is beyond peculiar.
I was astonished at the vivid pictures Gaiman painted using the simplest of phrases. On one moment, we are accompanying a young boy while he is eating toast his dad had burnt. And then, in quick succession, we are transported into an eerie world of orange skies and lightning-filled winds. It was quite weird. And that’s just it—I don’t get it. I thought I was beginning to grasp the theme, only to have my themed bread crumbs pecked away by the shadowy birds. And yes, it is as strange as it sounds.
The confused perspective of the book is probably what bothered me the most. At the author’s own admittance, the book is supposed to be in the perspective of a 7-year-old, yet we read several interjections from an adult narrator. This confuses the tone of the setting, to the point we have an adult talking to us in the language of a little boy.
Furthermore, the tale itself seems like an effort to blend Narnia in the world of Harry Potter, but to ill effect. Instead of a quaint tale to share with our children, we are instructed by the cover of the book that this is an adult-only novel (the word “novel” being used liberally)—danger! beware! a dead body and a subtle sex scene abide within these pages.
In the end, I was glad to have experienced an interesting story told by a well-seasoned author. However, I can’t help but feel that I just stepped off a fast and dizzy ride, set in a Tim Burton world. This may have been worthwhile, but I’ll need to let my stomach settle before passing conclusive judgment. For now, I’m going to give this book three stars for being well written, but confusing the hell out of me.