First of all, my NO SPOILER REVIEW for this book is on booktube but since I really, really, REALLY, loved this book, I decided to do a FULL, NO HOLDS BARRED, REVIEW here on my book blog because Joe Hill is the bomb.
For the curious souls who fear spoilers, the no spoiler (kinda) review is here.
But for those who are brave enough to read through spoilers, proceed with caution—
Since the day I got introduced to Horns, by the same author, I have made it a life mission to read EVERYTHING that he has written. (Total Count as of today: 3 books out of 5)
This book was hella long compared to the other books I have read, around 680+ pages more or less, originally released on 2013, I discovered this writer pretty late but not late enough to be on the lookout for rare books like his dad, Stephen King.
NOS4A2’s story revolves around Victoria McQueen’s life, starting from how she has discovered her special abilities of finding lost items–up to when her life got so difficult and thus out of rebellion, finding Charlie Manx–which then leads to her means of meeting Lou Carmody who will be the father of her child–which Charlie Manx will take from her as revenge for something terrible that our darling little brat has brought upon our beloved villain. He clearly hated Victoria for “lying” about how she ended up in Charlie Manx’s hands in the first place, she was honestly at the wrong place at the wrong time—but she did it on purpose. After all, she is a brat.
This book features one of Joe Hill’s trademarks, his concept of inscapes. An inscape, as how I understand it is a world or dimension that only the person who thinks of it has control or access to, in this book, we have Christmasland for Charlie Manx, thats his inscape and the manner of getting there is through this Rolls Royce Wraith.
Victoria doesn’t really have an inscape like Manx but she travels through the Shorter Way Bridge by means of her ride, when she was a kid, her Raleigh—and when she got older, her big ol’ Triumph. Other inscapes in Joe Hill’s other books include The Treehouse of the Mind from Horns, and the Night Road from Heart-Shaped Box.
VICTORIA MCQUEEN: She is the type of girl that isn’t all girly-girl? Pretty much a tomboy as how the book has described her, growing up she had a difficult life and the only means of escape that she has is through the Shorter Way Bridge. I personally like the way she made a point that using the Shorter Way Bridge takes its toll on her—that you cannot really have anything for free. That she should use it for important matters–like looking for important things–and when she got older—looking for important people.
Theres nothing about her character that I didn’t like to be honest, I can honestly relate to her character a lot.
I really like how Joe Hill developed her character from a distant mother to a mother who’d give anything to save her child. Thats like two ends of the spectrum and he just flawlessly made the shift with no effort.
LOU CARMODY: He is the type of man who definitely has self-esteem issues but he loved Victoria dearly, and took care of everything when Victoria was distant and was suffering from the trauma, after her encounter with Charlies Manx .
I honestly find Lou’s character extremely appealing, he is honestly, father material. He may be weak and kinda useless at some point, but he definitely is a man of his word. Having him in the book just made everything work out–we need more Lou Carmody’s in the real world.
I also liked how he just stepped up to help Victoria when she came running to him and just hopped on like she knew him–well, if I were in her shoes, Id hop on any bike I see after getting away from Charlie Manx and his brigade of fanged children. How he handled the ending with Wayne, their son, was extremely heart-warming.
BRUCE WAYNE CARMODY: Lets, call him just Wayne, and try to ignore that he was named after Batman. Lou’s idea. I liked how this kid was fighting his way through Charlie Manx’s efforts of getting into his head and using him to trap his mother, of all things! He was a good kid. He actually tried. I honestly think that having to ride inside that hideous car was so much to take that having him leave hints and messages to other people was very strong of him.
I really like the part where he and Charlie Manx were trying to lure Maggie Leigh outside the library to kill her. Wayne actually tried to warn her to run off. That its dangerous out there, but he can’t help it. The last few parts of the book just got me so worried about Wayne, especially when he keeps getting calls from the children from Christmasland, that they need him back so he can rebuild Christmasland which his mother has destroyed with a shit ton of explosives. Eventually, his father finished the job and saved him from insanity.
MARGARETH “MAGGIE” LEIGH: An extremely peculiar yet bubbly character in this grim story. I really grew a liking towards Maggie Leigh until Joe Hill decided to kill her off, well her death was a really epic one, and she died a hero–not a coward. her first encounter with Victoria was when Vic had questions about the Shorter Way and the Shorter Way brought her to Maggie’s Library.
The next time that they met was when Maggie looked for her to inform her that Charlie Manx is alive and escaped but Victoria didn’t believe her. This part frustrated me so much that I just had to stop reading for a while because Victoria was being utterly stupid at this point. Maggie had papers, and files–but if you think about it, she was just being cautious, Maggie at this point of the story wasn’t exactly the person you would want your child to see anywhere near you. She was sickly and had cigarette burn marks all over her arms and legs. All she wanted to do was help, you see, Maggie also has a gift, she may not be able to access inscapes in a literal manner like Manx and Vic, but she has answers to questions of sorts by means of her Bag of Scrabble tiles that seemed like a blackhole; there was a scene in this book where her tiny bag of scrabble tiles had her whole arm inside while she was looking for the right tiles when Vic asked if Wayne was still alive.
Pretty much like this scene from Harry Potter.
CHARLES TALENT MANX: He is HONESTLY the type of villain that you cannot help but love and hate at the same time. Its like you love how peculiar his character is–he makes it appear so charming that even you would like to hitch a ride in his Wraith–but he rarely lets adults in, let alone, at random.
What I also like about Charlie Manx is the way he stayed true to his favorite holiday of all time, Christmas, and his extremely odd way of “saving” the children that needed “help”, you see he was helping the kids in a way he knows that doesnt harm them in his perspective but actually HELPS them. I also like how clever and witty his gimmick is, the whole Christmas theme is just so brilliant that when he turned it into a dark subject instead of a jolly one, the idea will just linger for a while—or maybe for a long time like me.
What I didn’t like about Charlie Manx is his obsession to get even with Victoria, if I were in his shoes, the whole trouble she’s been causing him is not worth it? Given how the story ended, if I was Manx, it definitely wasn’t worth it, and I would’ve just given her back Wayne, her son, and saved Christmasland and just get on with our lives. Not that I am supportive of his means of saving children but more of, saving him the trouble of wasting all of his hard work. I appreciate all forms of hard work, don’t judge me.
But if it wasn’t for the whole obsessing over getting even with Vic, we wouldn’t have a book to obsess about today.
What I like about this book
This books universe was so well written by Joe Hill that imagining the scenarios that are happening for each chapter is not too difficult. The book offered so much character development that parting from the characters in this novel seemed impossible as you go through the pages. In contrary, witnessing the struggles that Vic had to go through from childhood to womanhood, from looking for lost trinkets to looking for her son—as a mom, just hit home so hard that as I was about to finish this novel, I had second thoughts to doing so. I like how this book ended, the ending was just what this book needed to wrap-up everything.
Its a complete tearjerker but it doesn’t really surprise me, since its a Joe Hill novel, the fuzzy feeling ending is quite expected. Lou getting rid of whats left of Christmasland and saving the kids from being trapped in that inscape was spine-tingling and baffled me. How was Hutter, Lou’s current girlfriend at this period–also a police officer(i think), going to explain this madness to the parents of these lost kids. They even had a kid who was missing for over a decade. The ending–other than was a total tearjerker, was also great in a sense? Since Manx’s daughter and 2 others managed to escape total destruction of the Christmas Ornaments that were left on the big ol’ pine tree in Christmasland–the ornaments sort of kinda trapped their souls and breaking these ornaments has set them free–I am hoping for a sequel!
What I didn’t like about this book
It played so much with my imagination, that I cannot look at Christmas the same way ever again, or so I think, for the next few years. Its not much of an issue, to be honest, since Christmas just happens a few weeks a year. Mainly, I am more bothered by the way he has constructed the chapters for this book, see, I am the type of reader who doesn’t pay too much attention to chapter titles, I rarely do.
When I first started this book, after the first chapter, I thought I bought a misprint because the last sentence on some of the chapters were “missing”—but they weren’t. So if you’re like me, pay attention to the chapter titles.
OVERALL VERDICT: 5 stars. I definitely recommend picking this book up!