Picking up a book by a fellow Birmingham alum is always a special thing, and ‘The Sheriff’ did not disappoint – full of fun, tension, twists and turns, it pleases on every level.
Denebola very quickly became one of my new favourite characters; noble, courageous (he’s no cowardly lion!) and a little bit grouchy, he’s a bit of all of us: trying to do a good job in a difficult and ever-changing world. His shaping and craft is skilful to show the complexities of his job, something which is handled delicately to subtly show the intricacies of Nephos life. Likewise, children are always tough in novels, and to get them into likeable characters without being sickly sweet or just plain irritating is a skill, and one that Fairbanks possesses in spades. Toby is astute and brilliant without going beyond his boundaries as a child character, and I’d argue as a result he’s the character we feel the most emotionally throughout the novel.
Even the bad guys are wonderfully shaped; it’s so easy to fall into cliches, but Fairbanks makes even the obnoxious Father Osmond into a creature that confuses the readers emotionally: do we feel angry at him, or sorry for him, or do we see that he’s like anyone who becomes engrossed with theological matters? It’s brilliant writing that makes you re-evaluate how you see things, a sign of a cracking read.
What I also like about Fairbanks’ style of writing is how everything wraps together; there are no clunky hints or clues here, just subtly weaved in elements that allow the direction of the story (and I imagine the Nephos novels as a whole) to be clear and to leave you realising the answers were there all along, a bit like a good Holmes story! I kicked myself for not seeing some of the plot twists coming because everything had been there to tell me they were, and that’s the beauty of Fairbanks’ writing.
This is a definite must for fantasy and young adult readers alike; I dare you not to want to live in the wonderful Nephos, and to come away not wondering who the cursed Besti Bori is in anticipation of the next book – this is definitely a debut that leaves you wanting more, and if you take a sneaky peak on Amazon, you’ll see that Fairbanks does not disappoint in this respect!