Sometimes a simple story, well told, is all it takes to make a good book. I’ve just written my review of 2014, and it’s full of books with interesting structures and reworkings of old ides, but sometimes all you want is some heroes, some bad guys and a mystery to solve. The Obsidian Pebble is just such a book.
It’s a children’s book, roughly 10+, so by necessity plot and deed are comparatively simple. The story zips along and the characters involved all feel real, which takes Rhys Jones’ first book in his Artefact Quintet a long way. The main cast is the standard 3 player HRH (Harry, Ron, Hermione) set up. Two boys and a girl always seems to work in this type of novel. There is the usual offset of school work against mystery solving, and there are problems both at school and home with bullies and unfair teachers, unpaid bills and absent fathers. More poignant is the black dog of depression that hangs over the lead character’s mother. The possibility of the mental collapse of a parent is far more scary than whatever shadowy forces lurk inside the old house in the story.
The novel opens on Halloween. Oz Chambers and his friends are going to sleep over in the oldest wing of his family home, Penwurt. The house was a former orphanage, and had prior to that been owned by a number of adventuresome types. Adventuresome types who often didn’t make it back from their escapades. The last person that failed to return was Oz’s father. When the trio hear footsteps in the abandoned wing of the house, an investigation ensues. They begin to reveal the tumultuous history of the house, and a number of powerful artefacts associated with it.
Money is tight for Oz and his mother, so they are forced to rent out rooms in their ramshackle house. This is the perfect excuse to have a number of different characters hanging around, all with questionable motives, some more obviously sinister than others. Jones plays his deck of antagonists well, and whilst his finesse his unlikely to throw adult readers, his younger ones will probably be fooled by the misdirection. The house is wonderfully atmospheric, and the author’s drip feeding of its history, keeps you reading. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot and the final reveals are satisfactory with plenty of interest created for the next book in the series.
The sections in the school are diverting, possibly even a distraction from the main event. They’re not terribly exciting in themselves, but they ground the characters with some real life problems and scrapes in the playground. They also add light relief with some BBC drama (Grange Hill) snotty bullies, who may or may not get their comeuppance by the end of the novel.
So there is nothing remarkable here, but does that matter? If you keep things simple, you have to do them well to make the book good. There’s nowhere to hide if your storytelling is weak. Jones knows his craft and delivers an engaging and entertaining story. My 9 year old is probably a bit young for this yet, but next year I’ll add it to his reading pile, happy in the knowledge he’s sure to be entertained.
The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
For other great books with Obsidian in the title see this one by Catherine Fisher