Wickedness by Deborah White

9/10 An engaging story, delightfully told.

One day - whilst reading that Samuel Pepys had once been to see an Egyptian mummy on show at the Head and Combe Inn on the Strand - Deborah White found herself with the seed of an idea for a story. The seed slowly germinated into her soon to be published debut novel, Wickedness, the story of two red-haired fourteen-year-old girls, separated by almost three hundred and fifty years but united by both blood and prophecy. And it does of course have an Egyptian mummy in it too.

I must admit that - in light of being neither a teenager nor female - I was a little dubious about reading and reviewing Wickedness as I did not really fall into its target audience. But as with all good books (of which Wickedness is one) it is able to appeal to a much wider demographic.

Wickedness is a book very much cast from the same mould as Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. Scott’s series has been deservedly successful by virtue of being both entertaining and educational but in my opinion White’s debut does exactly this with the added benefit of being a better-written book. The reason I think this is that I found the characterisation to be far superior and thought the portrayal of a family (Mum, Claire and Micky) coming to terms with the death of a matriarch and the breakdown of a marriage to be so realistic that it elicited great sympathy from me as a reader.

The story itself is rather dark, using the bubonic plague outbreak of 1665-1666, in which 20% of London’s population died, as the backdrop to Margrat’s story and the recent outbreak of bird flu as a major plot-point in Claire’s. Without wanting to give too much away, when Claire’s grandmother dies she leaves her a gold ring and an emerald casket, and in doing so sets in motion events that bring her to the attention of a powerful and dangerous man, for whom plague and pestilence are constant travelling companions. Claire finds herself caught up in an ancient and deadly prophecy, the very same that brought so much misery to Margrat so many years prior,  and from which she will be lucky to escape with her life.

It was the way in which the author told these two concurrent stories that brought me the most enjoyment. I loved the way in which she cleverly allowed events to unfold from the perspectives of the two girls, all the time showing history repeating itself. Deborah White’s fine debut novel will delight not just teenage girls but anyone wise enough to pick it up and read it. The engaging story is delightfully told, combining cleverly the historical, fantastical and romantic. If you are looking for a historical thriller with strong characters, great plot and just a touch of terror then you need look no further.

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