Tim Clare – The Honours (4 stars)

Performance poet’s debut is one of the most exciting fantasy novels of recent years

Tim Clare – The Honours

In his debut novel, The Honours, poet Tim Clare has succeeded in creating a world that is at once fantastical and absorbingly real. Initially, the story seems to follow a familiar spy thriller trajectory: 13-year-old heroine Delphine is displaced when her family move her to Alderberen Hall in order to join an elite society for ‘the perpetual improvement of man’. She suspects the society leaders of warmongering, and sets out to expose them for the good of her country (what else is a plucky young protagonist to do?)

When the true purpose of the society is unveiled, the novel seamlessly shifts gear. The war that Delphine feared is against an enemy from another world: one full of new, dangerous creatures that she must learn how to best. When Clare introduces this element of fantasy, he spikes the storyline with unexpected yet welcome unpredictability, and what begins as just another pre-war thriller quickly becomes one of the most exciting pieces of fantasy fiction in recent years. Following Clare’s complex characters as they flit between the familiar and fantastic is a pleasure. Let’s hope this isn’t the last piece of prose with which the poet surprises us.

Released Thu 2 Apr, published by Canongate.

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