The Veil by Jerry Ibbotson

Rating 8.0/10
A good old-fashioned ghost story.

A couple of years ago I read and reviewed Chosen by Jerry Ibbotson. It was a promising début that hinted at greater works yet to come and having just read The Veil I can happily say that Ibbotson has kept all the elements that were good in his début and improved upon the weaker areas.

Ibbotson sets his latest work, a paranormal fantasy, in the picturesque Yorkshire village of Henchcombe. The villagers are being haunted by their greatest terrors: missed opportunities, old regrets, broken hearts and betrayals. And each time a thick mist sweeps down off the local moor terrible things walk the streets. So it is up to a small group of locals to rescue their village, and they face a journey deep underground to a place none of them could have imagined. A dark place. A place of misery and pain. The Veil.

The old adage says that authors should "write about what they know" but I recently saw this countered by a famous author who said that authors should also "write about what they dare to imagine". And in The Veil Ibbotson has done both, firstly by setting the story in a location familiar to him and by populating it with characters drawn no doubt from real life acquaintances, and secondly by adding the supernatural element which always works best when contrasted against the normality of real life.

I spent much time in between reading The Veil in trying to establish whether or not I would categorise it as Christian fantasy. In the end I would have to say that it comes close, it certainly paints the church in a good light, but its non-dogmatic themes thankfully distances it from those "preachy" novels I avoid like the plague. What I would say is that The Veil is pro-faith and pro-love and what I found it particularly refreshing was the way in which it showed how vicars in England work very long hours and are always there to help people. This is something which is all-to-often forgotten as the few bad apples are those that make the news. If fantasy books wish to contain a religious message then The Veil, and of course Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Saga, approach it just right.

The Veil is a ghost story with a decidedly English feel that put me in mind of the work of James Herbert. It is creepy rather than gory or terrifying and there are very interesting concepts explored, such as how we, as intelligent human beings, are cursed(?) to constantly re-live lost chances, missed opportunities, the foolish moments in life that can lead to so many regrets. But the most intriguing part of all was that some villagers were immune to the fear felt by all others. Why? Because they were already living inside their own personal hell...

This book promotes faith but its main message is that love triumphs all, even faith. The Veil is a good old-fashioned ghost story, complete with characters you can root for and a well thought out story arc. I would recommend to those who prefer the creepy to the gore.

I continue to enjoy following Jerry Ibbotson’s career as it progresses and look forward to his future work.

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