Pedro Benoliel's Reviews > The 13th Horseman

The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, more-of-that-please, young-adult

"We've had...a number of Deaths", War admitted. "Nine, actually. Not counting you."
"NINE! Why? What happened to them?"
Famine crammed his food into his mouth and began counting on his fingers. "Mad, mad, suicide, mad, quit, mad, goldfish, suicide, mad", he said.
"Wait", said Drake, replaying the list in his head. "Goldfish?"
"Admin error", explained Pestilence, rolling his eyes. "Do not even go there."

All teenager Drake Finn wants is to fit in at his new school. But when he discovers a shed in his back garden that nobody else seems to be able to see, he finds himself dragged into circumstances well beyond his control. You see, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are staying in Drake's back yard. And they've come to inform him that he is the chosen candidate for the problematic role of Death.

With its mixture of excitement, sarcasm and side-splitting detail, Barry Hutchison's The 13th Horseman often evokes Terry Pratchett's more child-centric output, mixing it with a dash of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter for a suitably savoury concoction. The story tears along at a rollicking pace, keeping the reader guessing (a feat when it comes to children's literature) while not forgetting to develop its generally likeable characters.

The Horsemen themselves are probably the most accomplished. Flamboyant neat freak Pest in particular is delightful, with his ditzy observations and the many, many hints that he may be gay. Gruff War and gluttonous, laid-back Famine, however, are not too far behind, and together the trio are at the centre of this book's best moments. Drake and quirky love interest Mel are less developed, but still generally likeable in their 'real-kidness', while the sinister villains and dopey bullies adequately round up a strong cast.

If there is a flaw to be found with these characters, and the book itself, it is that Drake's transition from 'hell no' to a full-on bantering, board-game-playing Horseman is a tad too sudden. Similarly, potentially interesting plots, such as Mel's rich family, are eschewed in favour of keeping the main plot going, though this is not necessarily a flaw.

On the whole, however, this is a pleasant, entertaining read for all ages. Preteens who can handle Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Roald Dahl will love it, while adults will also find plenty within to chuckle about. A pleasant surprise.

[NOTE: This review pertains to the unproofed copy of the book, which does contain some typos, as well as a page bound in reverse. None of this detracts from the experience, however.]

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 16, 2013 – Shelved
September 16, 2013 – Shelved as: fantasy
September 16, 2013 – Shelved as: more-of-that-please
September 16, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
September 16, 2013 – Finished Reading

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