Friday 17 September 2010

CROSSING OVER by Anna Kendall

Whether it's a curse or a blessing the fact remains: whenever Roger is in enough pain he can cross over to the Land of the Dead and speak to the people there. It's an unexpected gift - and one that, throughout Roger's life, his violent uncle has taken advantage of. Roger has been hauled from fairground to fairground and beaten into unconsciousness, in order to bring word of the dead to the recently bereaved. It's a hard, painful way of life, deceiving the living for a crust of bread. So when Roger has the chance of a new life, it seems a gift. He has a chance at safety and at living a life of his choosing, tucked away in the royal court. But life is unexpected and when Roger falls in love with the bewitching, willful Lady Cecilia he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. With every step he takes towards her, he is drawn deeper into court intrigue, into politics and even into war...

What a cool cover! I have to admit it's the first thing that grabbed me about this book. :)

Roger has a gift. Or maybe it's a curse. He can crossover into the land of the Dead. The downside is that the only way for him to get there is via pain. Something that his uncle Hartah is more than happy to help him with. He beats him, then gets him to crossover so he can get answers about those that the living miss the most. It's how he makes a bit of money at faires.

See, when someone dies they're left wandering in the same place where they died, but on the other side. Where everything looks similar but the sun doesn't shine and the world is always covered in dark clouds. The dead aren't all that interested in talking to Roger, but if they're recently deceased he can usually bluff his way around getting answers by tricking them. And old ladies seem to love telling him all about the tales of their long lives, which usually provides him with enough ammunition to cover a whole small town.

Roger's fourteen and is very unhappy living with his abusive uncle and absent aunt, but he's a coward at heart and can't bring himself to leave. Even when he's dragged into a mess that causes a ship to crash, and is sentenced to be hung, he seeks the help of a widow named Mistress Conyers who will do just about anything to never see him again. So she gives him a letter of referral to become a court laundress for the Queen.

But while he's there, he catches the attention of Queen Caroline and is soon named her fool. A job that entails his special talent when she finds out the truth about him.

Roger also gets himself entangled in a very one-sided romance with a girl called Cecilia, which leads him to do some pretty horrible things. And he's totally clueless about how Maggie really feels about him. He's actually not too bright when it comes to women. Maybe it's because he's so deeply haunted by his dead mother, who he desperately wants to meet on the other side. But where she died, the Soulvine Moor, is a place that has even him running.

Crossing Over is an interesting, well-told story that is also quite odd. The characters are mostly self-absorbed and even appear superficial--Roger included--which made it harder than I expected to be sympathetic towards his plight. I think the strength in this book lies in the plot and the world these characters live in. I found the unstable nature of it kept me reading, and when war rages, the battle has some very unexpected and strange outcomes.

By the way, this is the US cover:

I think it really suits the imagery, showing the difference between the land of the living, and the land of the Dead. It's nice. Both covers are.

Crossing Over, August 2010, ISBN 978-057-509426-0, Gollancz Paperback

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