Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Claire North is technically two of my current favourite authors – not only am I enamoured of her writings under this particular nom de plume, but I’m devouring the books she’s written as Kate Griffin. So you can imagine my excitement when I got to review her latest book, before everyone else *!
Reading books before everyone else means you’ve won, or something.
Charlie’s new job is Harbinger of Death, a job that will take him to far-flung places, meeting new and interesting people, and witnessing the beauty, ugliness, strength, frailty, brutality and endless change that comes with life (and death). Fair warning: this book doesn’t have much of a plot, or action, really. It muses on the nature of life, and death, and Death, War, Famine and Pestilence (those famed harbingers of the Apocalypse).
The Death of this story falls very much into the mould set out by Gaiman and Pratchett. Death is not cruel, or malicious, or even particularly just or fair – Death is death, after all, and happens to everyone, and everything in its time. But Death is also interested in humanity, takes its job very seriously, displaying empathy and (of course) patience.
Of all Claire North’s characters, Charlie is probably the most “human” and relatable. He’s nobody special – a bit nebbishy, thoughtful, kind, talks too much, overthinks things, says the wrong things, gets drunk, is awkward and a little wishy-washy – which makes him perfect for the job. He’s the human face of death, the “bridge”, as he puts it. As he watches, and learns, and suffers, and experiences joy, he’s as heroic as Harry August and as lonely as Hope.
Thoughtful, beautiful and sad.
*Aside from the 9 other people who’ve reviewed it on Goodreads so far but let us never speak of them again!
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