16.5.09

An Ungodly Child by Rachel Green: Book Review

A couple of caveats are in order before I begin. First, I love urban fantasy. Though I've not been reading much fiction other than online in a while, this is one of my preferred genres when I do get round to it. Second, Rachel Green and I have been online friends and writing partners for two years now. I wouldn't necessarily write a more favourable review because of that, but I do feel it's worth the mention.

Those out of the way, onward to the review...


An Ungodly Child, the debut novel of Rachel Green and also the official print debut of principal characters Harold and Jasfoup, is an urban fantasy novel set in the fictional town of Laverstone in England. If you do not like plot with your swords, demons with your angels, or tea with your angst, or if you are not quite clever enough to appreciate wit à la Pratchett or Gaiman, this is probably not the book for you. If, however, you've ever wondered what it would be like to live an ordinary day as the son of an angel crossed with a human - er, we should throw in a dash of fey to be perfectly correct - then An Ungodly Child is just the digestive you're seeking.

Harold Waterman believes himself a fairly ordinary bloke aside from being well read and having a superior business sense. His modest antiquities shop sees to his basic needs, and those are minimal given his practical turn for cardigans and the fact he lives with his mother. Over three decades, his life has been, overall, rather uneventful save for the not ever having met his father, but his kindly Uncle Frederick has stood in for the MIA Lucifer and Harold's ignorance of his own parentage renders the lack less keen than it might otherwise be. Ada, his mother, looks for all the world like any other dowager who only worries that her son will never marry and produce babies for whom she can knit booties. 

Ada may get her wish. It certainly appears so, as Harold falls immediately in love with a beautiful customer in his shop one day. Alas, the affair is doomed when he learns she is actually Jedith, the Angel of Pestilence, and she has inflicted upon him a mortal disease. Given three months to live, Harold languishes, and Ada offers him his only hope, a gift left to him by his absent father. Inside the box, Harold finds magical artefacts, such as a pair of semi-sentient daggers, and the beginning of clues to his past. Using an ancient text to cast a magic circle and summon a demon, Harold encounters Jasfoup, soul collector of the fifth level of Hell, and the two form a most unlikely bond.

Jasfoup, no stranger to the Waterman family, knows of Harold's lineage. What he does not yet know is that Harold has been slated by three angels to be the antichrist and bring about the apocalypse. Together, Harold and Jasfoup embark on a crusade to save Harold's life, collecting additional supernatural creatures as they go to further populate Laverstone. This they attempt while never missing an opportunity for a cup of tea and eventually solving the mystery of who wants Harold dead and why. 

An Ungodly Child is a thrill-packed ride. The plot is fast paced and well constructed, and the dialogue is as clever as I have read anywhere. Rachel Green has built an entirely believable world with meticulous research and rapier wit driving every page. I haven't had this much reading fun in seven thousand years. 

Leaving a bit of biscuit for your tea, I won't tell you whether or not Harold is reunited with his father, whether or not he learns that his mother is part fairy, or if he ever gets a real girlfriend. For that, you must order the novel yourself. Here for US readers, and here for UK readers.

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