Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish
It’s incredibly rare that a book manages to vault itself onto my “favorite books ever” list within the first two paragraphs. Only one book comes to mind, at least within recent memory: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman captivated me by the first line. Now I’ve found a second: Cliff McNish’s Savannah Grey, and it did so with incredible force.
What did it? Paragraph number 2: “Reaching number thirty-three, Savannah Grey’s house, the Horror dropped its star-shaped head on one side, knotted its murderous claws behind its back, and tried to work out the most entertaining way to reach Savannah’s bedroom. There were many ways available, but the Horror was young and like all young things, it liked to use its teeth.”
How, I ask, can a book be dull with an opening like that? I was immediately captivated. Not even the change in narrative styles to first person once Savannah awoke diminished the storytelling. I was delighted when I saw that the original voice returned every few chapters to detail more of the Horror and the ancient Ocrassa that controlled it. Neither voice suffered, instead offering a depth to the already compelling story.
While the human characters were well crafted, the monsters came to life with a vibrancy that made me want to see the child-like Horror prance about in a stolen leotard and chasse and leap about while terrorizing humans. The way McNish tells of the Ocrassa’s history is as though he is telling of the Earth itself, incredibly powerful and moving. While explicitly evil, the Ocrassa is rendered in such a way that its actions seemed logical given what it was. I’ve never seen a writer make monsters feel so natural in our world. It’s incredible and not something I can accurately express in a brief review.
In addition to all this, the book ends exactly where and as it should. While there are some flaws (which I’d daresay are minor in comparison to its incredible strengths), I’ve read so few books that seemed nearly perfect in so many ways. This is one you have to read for yourself. Although many of you may disagree with my thoughts, you can’t read this and not wonder at the incredibly rich and original universe McNish created here. It’s astounding.
Thanks to Carolrhoda and NetGalley for the review copy.