The Identity Thief (The God Machine #1) by Alex Bryant, published February 29th, 2020.
This is a middle-grade or tween Urban Fantasy Adventure I’m glad I didn’t miss out on. It was well-written and well-plotted and, although targeted at the considerably younger than me audience, it wasn’t boring or patronising its readers. There is nothing worse than having the feeling the author has to explain everything because they think their audience is made up of rather uninformed (aka dumb) 12 year-olds.
The villain of the story is a person called the Cuttlefish, who is stealing magical books. Although stealing books seems pretty harmless, Cuttlefish goes to extreme lengths to get the full set of magical books, he’s stealing identities and nixing people all over Britain.
The heroine – okay, let’s say main character – is Cassandra ‘Cass’ Drake, 12 y/o. She lives with her mother near London’s famous Highgate Cemetery, where her father has been buried. Cass is a typical tween, seeking approval from her friends she can be quite unfriendly towards the new boy Hector, whom she met at the cemetery.
Hector and his mother live in an old mansion house, with Greek writing over the door. He’s trying to become Cass’s friend, but Cass is mortified by the idea, because her posse might find out. Hector being prone to seizures and socially awkward doesn’t help him making friends either.
For most part of the book we have two story-lines. There’s Cass and her friends, Hector, school, her mother, Hector’s mother – and lots of pre-teen drama. Bear with it, trust me. And then there’s Cuttlefish’s story, him stealing identities and books, for a reason we don’t know for a very long time. When the paths eventually cross, lots of stuff makes sense and the rest of the story is even more of a blast.
The magic system is based in ancient Greek, which makes people with Greek roots, like Hector and his mother, likely users of magic and therefore suspicious. Maybe that’s why Cass’s mother, a police officer in the special branch for magical policing, is so keen on befriending the family?
The story is full of twists and turns. To not overload the reader with lots of explanations the chapters are interspersed with pictures, notes, and newspaper clippings. This helps avoiding information dump. The Urban Fantasy setting, the humour, the slightly dark themes surrounding Cuttlefish reminded me of Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant.
I am looking forward to the next book in this series.