Wednesday, 17 September 2014

'Ferryman' by Claire McFall


*This review will contain spoilers!*

To me, 'Ferryman' is one of the prime examples of why you should never pick up a book just because the cover is absolutely gorgeous. Do you see how stunning this book is?! It's even more beautiful in real life, with an opalescent sheen that makes the book sparkle in a really alluring way, making it impossible to resist reading. Surely, a book with a cover this pretty should be amazing?
The answer to that question is a resounding no. 
'Ferryman' tells us the story of Dylan, a teenager who is on a train to meet her father for the first time in years, but is involved in a train crash. She emerges on the Scottish hillside and finds an attractive, handsome, sexy (blah blah blah) teenage boy called Tristan sat waiting for her. Ooh, spooky spooky.
Predictably, Tristan is the ferryman referred to in the book title meaning that, you guessed it, Dylan died in the train crash. But despite the fact that it's completely predictable and I worked out the entire story line within about three chapters, the first hundred or so pages are the only interesting bits in the entire novel. As the two characters go on their journey to cross the wasteland, I could only sit here thinking how repetitive and irritating it was. 
Wake up. Walk. Slight danger. Danger avoided. Safe. Sleep. 
Over. And over. And over. 
Furthermore, the danger was always completely contrived and not at all realistic. At one point, Dylan stops paying attention and their boat capsizes which results in her nearly drowning. In a realistic situation I'm pretty sure a teenage girl terrified of drowning would most definitely not let her guard down during a boat journey. It just seemed like there was nothing interesting happening, so some action needed to be shoved in to make the story more exciting, but if anything it just made it drag a hell of a lot more than it needed to. 
The last sixty pages seem to pick up again (well, kinda), but for the middle hundred and something it was one of the hardest novels I've ever had the displeasure to struggle through. Riddled with spelling and grammar errors (counting fifteen, at least) the flow of the novel was consistently broken up with the issues that should have been corrected in one of the many proof reads that novels usually go through, but this isn't completely the authors fault so I could almost have let that slide if the rest of the novel had had any positives at all. 
However, it just didn't really seem to. The plot was unusual but not very well executed, there were loopholes in the mythology and it just seemed too long and too unnecessary. I've never found myself reaching the middle of a book and groaning because I've got to read the same length again, I'm normally groaning because it's not long enough. But groan I did, five or six times throughout the last half of the novel. 
Dylan, our main protagonist, is the most annoying character I've ever had to read - she's consistently whiny, needy and childish (I've never known a character stick her tongue out this many times in a novel, it was verging on idiotic) and there are no redeeming factors about her at all. At the start of the novel she's complaining about her mothers negativity towards her visiting her father, while never stopping to consider the fact that her mother could see it as a massive betrayal and could be extremely hurt by her actions. She just seems to focus upon getting her own way with no time to think about how it affects other people. Later on in the book she always needs so much validation from Tristan, which grated on my nerves so much - you shouldn't base your self-worth on the opinions of a boy you only just met three days ago! Similarly she keeps referring to how much she's changed, how at the start she "pouted, whined, complained" but it doesn't really feel as though she's gone through any character development. From the first page to the last page she constantly pouts, whines and complains, so if she thinks she's stopped doing it she's highly mistaken. 
On the other hand, Tristan, the ferryman, is the only good character in this entire novel and he still has his issues. However, his particular brand of brooding is a welcome relief from the onslaught of complaints from Dylan so his negatives become positives in relation to how absolutely terrible the only other character in the entire first half of the novel is. But in my opinion there isn't enough focus just on Tristan. I understand that's the point in a novel with a relationship as the main focus point, but I genuinely think a book of Tristan's memoirs would be way more interesting. Can you imagine having to live an entirely transient life; always looking differently, always with different people, never allowed to have one day of normality? (But then if you really want to read that in a novel I'd seriously recommend 'Every Day' by David Levithan; A's character is more interesting and at least the love interest in that story doesn't make you want to tear your hair out with frustration). Actually, the entire love story in 'Ferryman' made me want to tear my hair out. The angst-filled romance just didn't seem at all solid to me. The will they/won't they to-ing and fro-ing was rendered completely obsolete because we had pieces of both characters internal thoughts, meaning there was no question at all for the audience, making most of Dylan's worries seem completely superficial and ridiculous. 
The concept of the ever changing, individual wastelands made Tristan's past extremely intriguing, which was one of the main reasons I actually persevered with this novel, but then a plot hole occurs when he's ferrying another soul and they go from a city centre to mud flats in the space of a chapter. That just demonstrates that it's a good idea but it's not a well executed idea. The valley is constant in every souls wasteland, but surely it would come in different guises? Dylan experiences the valley as being between two mountains, but the soul from the city centre could have experienced it as a long underpass to make it more appropriate to their context. 
As well as the repetition of the travelling throughout the novel, there are also extremely unusual words repeated to death (namely 'undulating' and 'zenith'). Never in my life have I seen zenith used in a young adult novel, but after reading it five times in 'Ferryman' I never really want to experience it again. 
I've never given up halfway through a novel, but I was extremely tempted to during 'Ferryman'. If the book had perhaps been better edited I may have enjoyed it more, but when the genders are consistently getting mixed up or minor characters names are being spelt incorrectly it's beyond annoying. With the plot getting mixed up in a similar way (were the names crossed out of the book because they were lost in the wasteland or because they left the afterlife? It was never clarified but both were implied separately, not concurrently). 
All in all, 'Ferryman' is a great novel if you're looking for a slow, dragging read with lots of errors. I was extremely excited to read a novel based on the souls journey from this world to the next, as it's not something you see as much of as witches or vampires or other paranormal beings. Next time, I won't count my chickens before they hatch, or count my good books before I read them, or something along those lines. 

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