The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding (2001)
There are real and imagined horrors in this book, and I'm not sure which are worse.
Thaniel Fox is a wych-hunter:
It had to be here. It had all the hallmarks of a classic Cradlejack lair. And besides, his intuition crowed at him, you know it's in there. Wych-hunting's in your blood; isn't that what father always said? You've got the wych-sense just like he had. You just know.
It's a dangerous thing, a wych, whatever shape it takes, and it doesn't seem to make any difference how many wyches the hunters kill, they still just keep appearing. If a cradlejack should bite or scratch another person, then he, too, will become a cradlejack. It's a deadly condition. And what do cradlejacks prey on? They steal infants from their cradles, of course.
So who wants to live in London? No-one wants to live in the Old Quarter. The Old Quarter is practically given over to the wych-kin, along with the poor and dispossessed who can't afford to live anywhere else. If you are fortunate enough to live in a more respectable area, north of the river, you still wouldn't wander the streets at night, for fear of what you might encounter. For someone else also roams the dark and foggy streets. Stitch-Face is about his ghastly business ...
It's clear that London needs to be cleaned up a bit. Where to start? Thaniel has a partner, Cathaline Bennett. She's older than him. Actually, she was his late father's partner first, but now she is Thaniel's partner and mentor. But even they are fighting a losing battle, until Thaniel comes across Alaizabel Cray, in the Old Quarter, one dark night.
Thaniel and Cathaline have a hard job trying to find out who Alaizabel is, because even Alaizabel doesn't know. But it isn't long before they discover a sinister link between Alaizabel and the Fraternity.
It's a sinister, ghoulish, ghastly kind of book - and I'm sure you won't be able to put it down. Highly recommended!
What can I read next?
If you like the strangely altered world of Thaniel Fox's London, you might enjoy Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials:
Or this hugely enjoyable adventure book by Philip Reeve:
If you enjoy sitting on the edge of your seat with horror, you could have a look at this one by Susan Price:
Or this classic by Mervyn Peake:
One final suggestion, more light-hearted but similar ideas, is this one by Robin Jarvis:
Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (Score: 93%)
- Apocalypse by Tim Bowler (Score: 93%)
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin (Score: 89%)
- The Wolf-Sisters by Susan Price (Score: 89%)
- The Chosen One by Mark Robson (Score: 89%)
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray features in these lists: