Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

“Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.”
neverwhereMap Art: Anne Meier

Short Review

Neverwhere is a visually delectable fantasy that teases the imagination to consider what happens when we are not looking. Richard Mayhew, the main character, heroes the ordinary part in us all and asks us to reconsider what we define as mundane. The cast of indigenous “London Below” folk are mysterious and engaging, leaving me wanting to know more about their alternate reality. Neverwhere is an easy read for a quiet weekend. The plot only scratches the surface of its potential and leaves the reader wishing there was more weight to it. I found the story very enjoyable, though not one I would find myself ranting and raving about.

My rating: 3/5 (a good read)

Favorite Character(s): I really enjoyed the character Islington. I can explain in detail below the spoiler warning line. I also liked Door (who I think is a favorite of most). She has a quirky and quiet way about her that offsets the vibrancy of her physical appearance. Actually, I was very much impressed with the physical manifestation of each character in my mind’s eye. For that, I think I loved them all.

Favorite “Darling”: Again, as with Phoenix Holt, I really enjoyed the numerous descriptions of Door’s eyes. I love opal stones and the fact that her iris resembled one is so cool. I didn’t mind the constant reminder. Just like the stone, it seemed my idea of her eyes changed with every mention. In fact, I wish there had been more varied ways to describe her appearance.

I would recommend this to: I would recommend this to YA readers, or college students looking to decompress between heavy study loads. I would also recommend this to a fantasy enthusiast looking for an enjoyable read that doesn’t require a huge commitment.

Contains spoilers beyond this point. 

neverwhere1From a writer’s point of view: I have to admit I was a little disappointed after seeing such high reviews for Neil Gaiman. I understand that this is his first novel which softens the blow a little bit. Based on the reviews plastered to the back cover, I had the impression that it would be a little darker and a lot more gruesome then it ended up being. Instead, I feel like the plot kind of grazed over both of those things without pushing the reader’s comfort zone. I also would have liked to see more depth to Door’s motivation (or any character’s motivation, except Hunter). For example, the explanation for the murder of her entire family was a little under developed. The Marquis had so many layers that were unexplored, especially is experience in the Death realm. Door’s father was quickly spotlighted then forgotten about, though he was another intriguing personality.

Richard, as a character, was consistent and did not make any huge shifts as he overcame obstacles, and I really liked that. I felt that if he had been totally transformed it would have seemed expected and typical. I also really liked the imagery of the angel, Islington, and the very unique personality given to him. In fact, I found him to be the most complex and I was wishing there was more story to explain the history behind his jailing in London Below. He had the serenity of a psychopath and a mysterious responsibility to the sinking of Atlantis all the while appearing to be angelic and holy. I love characters with duality.

I think I had more fun browsing through fan art than I did actually reading the book. Gaiman was really able to evoke interesting imagery in the reader’s imagination when it came to his characters. It seemed as if he had taken care to develop them visually. I wish he would have done the same with the depth of their personalities and backgrounds. If that had been successfully achieved, I feel Neverwhere would easily be a book placed on my shelf of treasured stories. Rather it seemed as though it were just another “almost” book for me.

Next Review: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton 

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