Friday, 10 October 2014

The Devil's Piper

Susan Price
Puffin Books

I've seen Susan Price's name a lot over the years as my partner is a fan of her series of 'Ghost World' novels. They've never appealed to me but when I saw the beautiful cover art (by Errol le Cain) of the Puffin edition of her first novel I had to have a read.

Written when she was just 16, 'The Devil's Piper' tells of the arrival of a leprechaun (or 'luchorpan' in the story) named Toole O'Dyna into a small village in the North of England after it awakes from a 200 year sleep. Upon waking O'Dyna wastes no time in consolidating his magic by acquiring an entourage of followers and in making itself at home by reshaping the environment before embarking on a revenge two centuries in the making.

It's a fabulous read. Price, even at the tender age of 16, has a magnificent written voice. Her storytelling is compact and sinuous, her characters are real and behave in ways that are entirely believable even when performing the most fantastical actions and the way she illustrates her narrative with clear and imaginative details (such as her description of Miss Jenns' first trip out with her camera) makes each page a joy.

This is a book that ought to be read by everyone with an interest in folklore or British rural horror as it is dripping with inventive authenticity and a real sense of both place and time and is written with wit, intelligence and artistry.

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