Neversuch House : Elliot Skell

Neversuch HouseNeversuch House by Elliot Skell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Neversuch House. A curious location, home to the Halibut family who live in a cloistered existence from the world outside. Everyone’s pretty much fine with that until one day Omnia Halibut finds herself involved in a series of extraordinary events.

Hear that? She’s involved in Extraordinary Events. You’ll hear it several times during the book as the text can’t quite resist telling you that there are Extraordinary Events going on and you should pay attention to them because they are Extraordinary Events (they’re Extraordinary, don’t you know?). I can’t help but wonder how this was let through the editing process as all it did was make me think of a Series of Unfortunate Events – the Lemony Snicket books. A comparison is inevitable when the narrator keeps blinking banging on about Extraordinary Events and it’s a comparison that sadly Neversuch House tends to lose.

And that’s a shame because this book could have been a lot better. The conceit that there’s this family which exist quite happily in isolation from the world is ripe for exploration. It could have led to something quite dark and intriguing but it doesn’t. The house itself and the location is splendidly gothic and weird with hidden towers, rooms and mysteries everywhere. This could lead to so much but unfortunately we’re just told about it and left with the distinct impression that this is all building up for a series of sequels.

So if this does (and it so will) become a series; less of the arch narration and self conscious style please? If you’re going to be a fairytale, or a gothic fairytale, or a genre mashup hithertofore unseen; be it wholeheartedly. Because I think this is the problem. It is, as my Northern side would describe it, neither nowt nor summit. Neversuch House doesn’t know what it wants to be. There are some glorious moments in it and some very visual moments that are a delight but they’re rare. In between these moments is a lot of huff, a lot of puff and it’s in these moments, the chapter upon chapter of padding and self-gratification that Neversuch House falls right down.

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