Book Review: The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray cover(Halloween is coming up, so I’ll be posting reviews of some good spooky reads I recommend. Enjoy!)

The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Point (first published June 15th 2001)

4/5 stars

I really enjoy reading Chris Wooding’s novels. (I also recommend Poison.) There’s something very dark and weird to the worlds he creates, and it makes the stories edgy and exciting. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray is no exception.

Set in an alternate universe of Victorian London, there are more than just famous serial killers (in this case, it’s Stitch-face) to worry about. Ever since the city was bombed, wych-kin have been appearing in the Old Quarter. They kill, possess, steal babies, and just generally do bad stuff. They’re the things of nightmares, of fairy tales, the things that go bump in the night. And they just keep coming.

Here are the basics:

There’s Thaniel, a teenage wych-hunter by birth, talented and powerful by training. His dad was a really famous wych-hunter, but they kind of had a strained relationship. After his father died, Thaniel was raised by…

Cathaline, his father’s old friend. She finished his training and brought him up as her ward. She’s way progressive. She even wears pants! Together they fight the wych-kin that threaten to overpower London.

But one night, while hunting a cradle-jack, Thaniel comes across Alaizabel Cray. She’s young and beautiful and totally possessed. He brings her home, and she snaps out of it at some point and is able to tell him her name. She can’t remember much other than that, but the glimpses into the real Alaizabel have Thaniel falling for her. He vows to protect her, even though she appears to be a magnet for wych-kin.

There’s also an Inspector and his partner, who don’t always seem to have the same interests, a doctor who runs the local asylum and who seems to know more than he lets on, Stitch-face the serial killer, a beggar king, a devil-boy, and of course, the spirit that is trying to take over Alaizabel’s body – if only Alaizabel weren’t so stubborn. And there’s the Fraternity, but they’re just a rumor…right?

By finding Alaizabel, Thaniel is suddenly consumed by questions. Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she end up in the old district in the possession of a very powerful spirit? And then there is the nature of the wych-kin themselves – and why they seem to be increasing in strength and numbers. As carefully planned pieces fall into place around them, Thaniel and his friends must answer these questions and fight the coming darkness, which threatens to consume not just Alaizabel, not just London, but the whole world.

This is a great creepy read. Chris Wooding’s characters and writing style are fun and engaging, but he perfectly sets the sinister atmosphere of London’s foggy streets with well-written detail. His stories are original and fresh, and when I’m in the mood to read something different, he’s a good choice.


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