A few weeks back, a bout of illness gave me the bed-ridden time to finally finish reading Tom Fletcher’s The Leaping. Unfortunately, the back-log such a bout of illness causes has delayed my official musings on the matter until now.
I am very pleased that I managed to luck across Tom’s name, through past hints at Nightjar Press by Michael Marshall Smith. On seeing that Tom had a novel out, in addition to a number of chapbooks with Nightjar, I was interested. Subsequently, I found it in the beautiful Piccadilly Waterstones store.
I read the first part of the novel quickly. The novel leaps between two narrators, very different in their voices, idiosyncracies and tenses, as the plot develops – this drives the action and the pacing very efficiently. At all points, the action is driven more by the characters than a sense of authorial purpose. Multiple narrators are tricky to get right, but Fletcher has constructed such powerful individuals that there is no crossover of voice, despite the crossover of romantic interests and locations the plot assigns.
It has often been noted that the real horror of the novel doesn’t start until a decent way in, and the consensus is that this is a good thing. I agree. The action perfectly suits the character and the mood, and the lack of occurence whilst regularly spotting oddnessess reminds me of the classic horror authors. That being said, Fletcher shows us the many strings to his bow (pardon the pun), in his handling of sheer graphic, visceral gore in the later stages of the novel – it wrenches at the gut, but without lowering the tone of the novel.
We are dealing with skin-rending horror here, and no punches are pulled.
While I liked the pacing of the novel, personally I found myself thinking halfway through the final hundred pages that the story dragged a little. After a fantastic climax on the haunted shores of Wastwater, the final section reverted to a slow persistence. I really enjoyed the subtle horror here: indeed part of me expected the book to drawl out into a chilling anti-climax. Instead, I did enjoy what happened, and after the animal, primal ferocity of the earlier climax, Fletcher shows the other side of his antagonists – the pure ancient evil. The Leaping itself is a thing of brilliance.
Would I recommend the book?
Undoubtedly. Indeed, I am likely to bring it with me when I next visit my parents so that my mum might read it.
What will I take from it? I really love the changes between the narrators, but especially that the action is driven by the characters. This is often something I am not focused enough on. Furthermore, I really love how Tom has used first person. I should try to use more of it.