The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry #BookReview #BlogTour

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can't quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob - a young lawyer with an utterly normal life - hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other.

But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, and for once, it isn't Charley's doing. There's someone else out there who shares his powers and it's up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them - before anyone gets to The End.

I'm delighted to be sharing my review of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep today. Many thanks to H.G. Parry, Orbit Books and Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take art in this blog tour and for my advance copy of the novel.

Those of us who love reading know there comes those moments where a character almost becomes real - but Charley Sutherland has the ability to actually bring them to life. As a child prodigy, he learned to read from a precocious age and although the first character he brought into the world was The Cat in the Hat, he soon progressed to more literary tomes, with a particular fondness for Victorian literature.
As he doesn't have full control over his ability, his family have always encouraged him to try to keep his thoughts under control when reading to avoid awkward situations but as a lecturer at Prince Albert university in Wellington, it's not really surprising that his deeper study of books results in characters appearing in front of him - and let's be honest, if any of us had such an ability, how could we resist using it to actually meet our protagonists?! Unfortunately, it isn't just the heroes who Charley brings to life and those he does bring forth are coloured by his own interpretations. The story opens with his older brother, Rob receiving a phone call at four in the morning because Uriah Heep was loose on the ninth floor.
Most of the novel is narrated through Rob's eyes and although it's Charley who we can't help falling in love with, Rob is a complex, fascinating creation in his own right. He resents his brother's gift and that he is often called upon to make things right, with the role he has cast on himself as protector having weighed heavy on him over the years. Having a genius for a younger sibling is never going to be easy but one with such a unique (seemingly) ability obviously made Rob's adolescent years difficult and he looks back on them with a combination of bitterness and guilt. There are moments where his choices seem harsh but he is written so well that though I may not have approved of his actions, I was always able to understand (and sympathise with) why he behaves as he does.
Before Heep is sent back to his book, he delivers a warning about the new world which is apparently coming, then after an unexpected encounter with a terrifying fictional foe, Charley and Rob learn there are other literary characters living in the city. Many of the characters are widely known faces from classic literature, including Heathcliff, the White Witch, Dorian (his portrait is here, too), the Artful Dodger and most amusingly, five different versions of Darcy. It transpires that although Charley is able to summon any character from a book, ordinary people can occasionally read one into existence - and readers particularly connect with Darcy. I loved that each Darcy is unmistakably him - they each talk about their own character failings constantly - but they also bear the hallmarks of whatever version was in the reader's mind; Darcy Five is obviously Colin Firth. However, one of the most important characters, Millie Radcliffe-Dux was invented for this book but what she lacks in renown, is more than made up for in her personality which shines with wit and the sort of no-nonsense fortitude that Victorian girl-detective adventurers had in spades.
All the fictional characters are given strong voices which are immediately recognisable and each fits their canon personalities as we understand them perfectly, meaning that even just a passing knowledge of various works is enough for the humour in the novel to work beautifully. This is even true for Millie who, despite having grown up in the real world to become an accountant, still lapses into her dated Jacqueline Blaine (her author) voice at times, noting at one point that she hadn't said "old thing" for decades. However, despite the fun to be had with each new character brought to life, there is a darker side to the story - and a more emotional one too with Rob and Charley both forced to figure out what they really mean to each other.
Without giving too much away about the plot, Charley discovers that he is not the only summoner and somebody else is bringing characters out of their books for reasons which go far beyond mere curiosity or enthusiasm. It's fascinating too, to consider that although they started life as words on a page, there may come a point where they should be given their own autonomy. There are plenty of twists and they're the sort which seem brilliantly obvious in retrospect as the clever plot intricately draws together the various elements of the story; the Gothic melodrama; the Dickensian social commentary and the more contemporary urban fantasy- cum- family drama to create a wonderfully charming, witty and heartfelt novel. The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is an engaging, joyous read which delights in reminding us that all stories have their own special magic. I loved every word!

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is published by Orbit Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

H. G. Parry lives in a book-infested flat in Wellington, New Zealand, which she shares with her sister and two overactive rabbits. She holds a PhD in English literature from Victoria University of Wellington, and teaches English, film and media studies. Her short fiction has appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction and small press anthologies. The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is her debut novel.
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