Saturday, 6 April 2013

Review: Barbed Wire Hearts – Cate Gardner


This is the third Cate Gardner book I’ve read. It's sort of horror, kinda fantasy, but I’ve come to the conclusion that really Gardner is a genre all unto herself. Her stories tend to be weird but whimsical, bringing the darkness of the best fairy tales into the modern day. 
 
It’s a testament to Gardner’s uniqueness that describing the plot in any detail is a mug’s game, because coming from anyone else but her it doesn’t sound right. In fact it sounds gaga. But here it goes anyway:
 
Eddie’s heart has been broken by a girl. Literally – he feels it crack and dribble down his legs. Simultaneously, a girl who should be dead has a heart that refuses to stop beating. And a strange man called Ghoate who lives in the forest (which wasn’t even there yesterday) collects hearts and reanimates shop mannequins. And Seth - his name badge says Seth, anyway - eats hearts. Oh, and there's a ghost and these spiders that jump down people’s throats when they kiss and...
 
…and…
 
Look, I told you it wasn’t easy to describe Gardner’s books.
 
But it's easy enough to describe how damn good they are. And this novella (published by Delirium Books) strikes me as possibly the strongest book of hers I've read – in common with the best novellas, the form allows the plot to be fully satisfying but without any extraneous fat. In the end, despite the high levels of strangeness, this is a book with a lot of heart (aptly enough). The characters are strong, the plot lively, the calm prose making even the wildest of ideas sound plausible whilst you’re reading, just like the best dreams seem realistic whilst you’re dreaming them.
 
Spend awhile in Cate Gardner’s dreams, why don’t you? (Barbed Wire Hearts UK | US)

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