The Feathered Man by Jeremy de Quidt
Book of the Year 2012 (see all)
In a German town, long ago, lives a tooth-puller's boy called Klaus. It isn't Klaus's fault that he sees his master steal a diamond from the mouth of a dead man in Frau Drecht's lodging house, or that Frau Drecht and her murderous son want it for themselves.
He has nothing to do with the Jesuit priest and his Aztec companion who turn up out of the blue looking for it, or the Professor of Anatomy who takes such a strange interest in it. No, Klaus doesn't want any trouble.
But when he finds himself with the diamond in his pocket, things really can't get much worse - that is, until the feathered man appears. Then they become a matter of life… and death.
You may have already heard of Jeremy de Quidt due to his first offering The Toymaker, or his name may be entirely new to you. However, regardless of whether you have or have not already read a de Quidt offering my message to you would be the same, that you simply have to read this book.
It has been a very long time since I have read something that from the very first page makes you glaringly aware that you are reading something so original in concept, so different than anything you have read before that it actually gives you goose bumps. So effortless is this book to immerse yourself in and submit entirely to the characters and their surroundings that you try very hard not to read the pages too greedily, as you want to enjoy and savour every word on the page. By the time I had reached the end of the first chapter I had actually formed the word ‘wow!’ on my lips.
The story is set in a Victorian era Germanic, grimy and poverty-ridden town where children in particular are preyed upon for easy and cheap labour and are only too glad of the chance to be off the streets. Klaus is such a child, a young boy employed and often beaten by his master the local tooth-puller. He has a profitable business arrangement with a local boarding house owner, who is a cruel mistress to her young servant girl Liesle and only too happy to make extra pennies selling the teeth of the poor unfortunates who have given up on life in her lodgings and prefer to shuffle of this mortal coil.
It is on such an occasion, when the tooth-puller's services are called upon that he and Klaus stumble upon something so extraordinary that a chain of events are set in motion that involve the children in a fight for their very lives, as their tale takes them through the dangerous streets to gold mines in South America and on to other worlds; of this world the Feathered Man certainly does not belong, but he’s getting closer, pulled on by a diamond that Klaus sees as his saviour and Liesle sees as their damnation.
The story is both terrifying and tender, it looks and the very best and worst of human nature and shows another plane of reality that is so frightening.
There is so much plot crammed into this book and yet is flows so wonderfully that you don’t at anytime feel overloaded or like you’re being left behind, it just all works so beautifully. As for the characters, well there just isn’t a weak one amongst them. You look at the book in your hand, not a tome by any stretch of the imagination, just a nice hand sized book and think “how on earth does all that fit in there?” but it does and perfectly so.
I'm loathe to give any more of the plot or characters away because, honestly, I don’t want to spoil it for you and although there is a diamond, which plays a very important part to the story, the real gem here is de Quidt’s writing.
This The Feathered Man book review was written by Amanda White
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