A few days ago I apologized for posting so many book reviews in a row, saying that I would try harder to spread them out over time. Well, I lied. I have to break my promise because over the weekend I read two amazing books, Malice and Havoc by Chris Wooding, and I want to write about them immediately.
Note: This isn’t a Two-In-One review because those feature two similar books with different authors.
This review is spoiler-free!
Here’s the summary of book one (the second is spoilery, so I won’t post that here):
Once you get into the story, there’s no way out.
Everyone’s heard the rumors. If you gather the right things and say the right words, you’ll be taken to Malice, a world that exists inside a horrifying comic book. It’s a world that few kids know about… and even fewer survive.
Seth and Kady think it’s all a silly myth. But then their friend disappears, and suddenly the rumors don’t seem silly after all. Malice is real. Malice is deadly. And Seth and Kady are about to be trapped inside it.
Why should you read Malice and Havoc? Check out my reasons below.
The books form a duology.
I couldn’t be happier about this. I mean, I love series but… sometimes I don’t want a story that goes on and on, because I lose interest over time. Or it’s just plain hard to track down all the books, let alone in order. For example, I’m currently reading the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy and love it so far, but one glance at my library’s website and I’m questioning whether or not I can find all the books.
But that isn’t a problem with this series. Even better, they feel like acts one and two of a play. More story than can be contained in a single book, yet still relatively short and sweet.
The story doesn’t easily fit into a single genre.
For sure, it is fantasy, graphic novel (I’ll explain that more later), and horror. But there’s also a touch of the contemporary. A bit of paranormal stuff. Oh, and science fiction – maybe even a little steampunk. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS. It really blends genres. I love it.
I can’t decide the age of the intended audience.
Just as Malice and Havoc blur the lines of genres, so too do they dismantle the idea that only certain age groups would enjoy certain books. At my library these two were shelved as YA and while I certainly don’t think that’s erroneous, I don’t think teenagers are the only readers who would like this duology. I think it would work just as well as a children’s book or as middle-grade fiction. I think an imaginative adult would enjoy the books as well.
This is due, in part, to the writing style – neither highbrow nor juvenile. The amount of horror helps too because, while the story is creepy, it never becomes so much so that a kid would be seriously frightened.
Last but not least, I think it has something to do with the characters. My best guess is that they’re fourteen or fifteen but the story never says and honestly, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that knowing the age of the character sometimes makes a reader judge them, makes them decide the character is immature and not worth reading any more about. But that doesn’t happen here.
Malice and Havoc are part graphic novel, part prose.
A bit like The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, really. So no, these books aren’t the first to tell a story using that technique, but they’re still awesome.
I don’t think the books could have been told in any other manner – it’s a story about comic books, for heaven’s sake! Show us installments of the comic!
The story is creepy. But not too creepy.
I actually like being scared. But only a little bit. Stephen King? No, thank you. That’s too much for me. Malice and Havoc, on the other hand, made me feel just like Goldilocks: This story is just right.
I do think the horror lessened slightly during the second book because the mystery of Malice’s existence was explained, but hey. It would’ve been more annoying not to receive an explanation of that fantasy world’s creation.
The story may be YA(ish) and feature a boy and girl who are good friends, but there. Is. No. Romance. It surprised me. It set these books apart from, well, pretty much every book I’ve read lately with their Unnecessary Straight Romances and their Love At First Sight and all that jazz. Both Malice and Havoc have a strong theme of friendship and THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.
I love that neither gender differences nor possible romantic interests influence the characters’ feelings towards one another. The issue isn’t, “I’m worried about you because you’re a girl” or “I’m worried about you because I want you to be my boyfriend and that’s kind of difficult if you don’t come back.” The issue is “I’m worried about you because Malice is terrifying and dangerous” and “I’m worried about you because you’re my friend” and “I’m worried about you because I couldn’t bear telling your parents that you died.”
Consider Seth. He’s into saving people, worrying about people, doing his duty. But it’s not a boy-girl thing. Not a “you are the damsel in distress and I must rescue you!” thing. (If anything, Seth seems more concerned about getting his friends Justin and Luke, rather than Kady, out of harm’s way.) He’s just trying to help people. People, no gender specified. He realizes that if terrible things happen and someone must fight them, it might as well be him.
You need to read these books. Seriously. They are, in so many ways, some of the best books I have read lately. Please, I’m begging you. Read them. They are so worth it.
Rating for Malice: 4/5
Rating for Havoc: 3.5/5