Review: The Demon’s Watch by Conrad Mason

Publisher: David Fickling Books (ebook published by RHCB Digital)
Published: 2012
Format: ebook
Rating: 4/5

Captain Newton and his men keep watch over Port Fayt, where humans live in peace alongside trolls, elves and fairies. They’ve always kept the town safe from pirates and smugglers. But now Fayt is under threat from a much more powerful enemy – the League of the Light, who have sworn to destroy all non-humans. And to make matters worse, a dangerous witch has just arrived in town…

Half-goblin boy Joseph Grubb works in his uncle’s tavern, the Legless Mermaid, and has only ever heard stories of the Demon’s Watch. But when he runs away from his uncle and finds himself deep in a criminal underworld, Grubb might be the one person who could help the watchmen save Port Fayt.

This debut novel from Conrad Mason reaches into the perspective of several characters, but primarily follows the story of Grubb, an orphan half-goblin raised by his racist uncle who escapes into an increasingly perilous world. I often have reservations about this technique, but I enjoyed the multidimensional quality and insights into characters’ motives. It’s like you’re being given a private viewing behind the scenes of the story. Mason never gives too much away and you engage with each character’s history as you gradually piece their intertwining storylines together.

The story sometimes reads as a thriller or mystery. Mason succeeds in the art of drip feeding information and leaving you wanting more. As soon as you discover the truth, every passing detail or seemingly unimportant fact slots together in a satisfying discovery.

One of my favourite things about this book is the humour. Some children’s authors try too hard to inject humour into their stories and it falls flat. Not here. Mason’s style is subtle and driven by the characters. Almost every character’s inner thoughts got a laugh. Quips like “He’s a podgy old soak, with a crazy left eye and not much use for baths,” are the kind of phrases that make children’s books universally enjoyable. But the thing that makes The Demon’s Watch a good book, rather than an average one, is the delicate balance between light heartedness and serious suspense. Mason is definitely one to watch.

A review of The Demon’s Watch can’t go without a mention of the ominous League of the Light. Though not an individual character, the League is so well developed it becomes its own entity. The faceless organisation looms over the relative peace of Port Fayt. Mason feeds rumours and passing statements about the League into the story, keeping it ever present in your mind. I eagerly anticipate the next instalment where I hope to discover more about this mysterious organisation.

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