This is my third review for the Transworld Summer Reading Challenge, and I'm rather sad because it's just one last book after this and then the challenge is over! At least, it is for me.
So, Tim Davys' Amberville. If you read the Amazon blurb, you'll see that the premise is original, intriguing and messes quite spectacularly with your head. Set in a town full of stuffed animals who live, eat, breathe and act like people, this is so many things. A story about a gangster who threatens our protagonist. A story about flawed people and dark pasts. A love story. But more than any of these things, I thought this was, essentially, a story about brothers.
Eric and Teddy Bear. Eric is given an ultimatum by a stuffed-bird mob boss: get said mob boss off the mysterious Death List, or the mob bosses's cronies will tear Eric's love Emma to pieces. So Eric sets out to find this Death List and get the mob boss's name off it. But it's not quite so straightforward as that. There are complications upon complications, tons of supporting characters (most of whom aren't remotely nice), and subplots that tangle and weave and ultimately contribute to this key storyline.
This is an excellent book. I'll get my criticisms out of the way. This is not really my favourite genre, so I suppose I could have enjoyed this more. And it got a little tangled and convoluted for me. and I found myself skimming a few parts of the story... but.
Yes, but. The relationship between Eric and twin brother Teddy is enough to keep you going. It's complicated, but touching. Oh, so touching. It's more effective than a love story would have been in this novel, though Emma Rabbit's relationship with both Eric and Teddy is compelling. The novel is told from multiple points of view, including the twins', and the format leaves the reader able to pick up on ironies and plot details that the characters don't yet know about. For instance, an important twist in the story is revealed to Teddy about two thirds of the way through the book, but Eric remains ignorant of it - and that ignorance could well cost them both their lives. Prepare to shout at the characters and claw at the pages, but it's a very satisfying shouting and clawing.
As for the ending?
There's a key choice towards the end of the novel, one that means everything to the brothers' relationship and lives, and it's a gripping, moving, spectacular choice. The threads are tangled in the novel, but they come undone and straighten out very smoothly. It's not a perfectly tidy ending, but it didn't need to be. When I read the last page, I felt satisfied, I didn't need any questions answered.
This is a great read, even if you don't normally read the genre. 4 out of 5 stars.