Review – The Honours, by Tim Clare

The HonoursThis is a bold, brave and brilliant book, just like its hero, thirteen years old Delphine Venner.

It’s 1935 and troubled Delphine, recently expelled from school, goes to the isolated Alderberen estate with her mother and equally troubled father. An odd community live in the great house, invited by the ancient and dying last lord of the estate. Part political commune, part new-age retreat, the inhabitants struggle with the psychological damage of war, paranoia, anger, illness – and something else. Something vast and secret. All is not what it seems.

Left to her own devices Delphine runs loose in the house and the estate. Creeping in the secret passages between the walls, the forgotten tunnels under the estate, and in the company of Mr Garforth, a dangerously pragmatic gamekeeper, she listens and learns, and discovers that nothing at all is what it seems. The whole world is beyond sinister.

The Honours is a brilliant gritty fantasy joining this world and the other. Delphine is a wonderfully well-drawn unhappy child and hero, struggling to hold her family together and her father struggles to mend his mind. When it’s all too much she retreats into the adventures of her own imagination – and discovers those adventures have equipped her well for the real-life dangers that erupt and consume everyone on the estate.

There are layers and layers in this story, Clare is a masterful story-teller writing with colour, emotion, and evoking a haunting landscape. The best books don’t necessarily win prizes, this one wins mine. The Honours is one of the best books I’ve read and if there is a sequel then I cannot wait.

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