There are times as a book lover – hopefully few and far between – where you find yourself stuck. Every book you pick up is disappointing, every page becomes a struggle to turn, every word dull to read. You may have even had such a run of average or bland or outright horrendous books that it feels as though you may never come across an amazing new story again.
Then finally, finally, a book comes along that is so fantastic you can’t put it down, you lose sleep trying to finish it, and all the magic of reading returns. Recently, for me, that book was The Oversight, the first adult novel by Scottish screenwriter and author Charlie Fletcher.
The Oversight is all that stands between our world and the darkness, as they police the borders between mundane and magic. Once there were hundreds of members, but since a terrible tragedy destroyed their numbers, those who remain can be counted on one hand. When a screaming girl is brought mysteriously to their headquarters, it seems as though there is hope – or at the very least, a new recruit. But the girl is a trap, and as their enemies surround them the Oversight must fight to survive – for all our sakes.
Though there is a comforting familiarity about the plot and characters (at times I was reminded of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, though more in tone than though technical similarities) The Oversight is captivatingly unique. Turns and unexpected happenings stop any chance of predictability as darkness and mischief abound, and the characters are well-rounded and likeable. The writing is seductive, clever and beautiful, with just the right balance struck between description and omission. This results in an incredibly vivid world, with plenty of room for the reader to use their imagination.
As with Gaiman’s writing, Fletcher’s supernatural beings aren’t the typical vampires or elves expected in this kind of fantasy. Here, we have a fantastically re-rendered version of the Irish Sluagh, terrifying undead creatures adorned with bones who make excellent villains. Their evilness is overshadowed only by the scheming Templebane twins, with their numerous adopted sons and complete lack of scruples.
Many of the series-openers I have read recently seem so taken with the idea of a sequel that the first book suffers, as setups and suggestions for the second book get in the way of any plot. This is absolutely not the case with The Oversight. This fast-past, gothic story comes fully formed and could stand alone if it wasn’t for the few threads of storyline left tantalisingly open. I finished this I one night, unable to sleep until I’d read every single page, and those little hints of what’s to come next have left me me desperately hoping that Charlie Fletcher is a fast writer – I simply cannot wait for a sequel!