I had read a lot of Gaiman’s comics work and some of his short stories but nothing he had written in long-form until this book. It’s a good intro as it left me wanting to move immediately on to another novel by him.
The concept is fairly simple: baby Jack manages to survive a horrible massacre of the rest of his family by accidentally. wandering into the local graveyard where the ghosts adopt him. He is given the “freedom of the graveyard” and grows up there, taught by these long past dead and making friends with a few visitors, always careful not to leave the confines of the graveyard lest his family’s killer discovers him. As he grows up, he learns about the past of the graveyard itself, as it hides several secrets, and he eventually learns about his own past and why his family was murdered.
Gaiman’s style is breezy, but evocative and unadorned, very similar to J.K. Rowling’s. Each chapter ends but leaves you eager to read the next, and when the plot finally gets around to the big reveal, it pays it off nicely with bits and pieces of those earlier chapters woven nicely into the finale. In fact, I would say this is one of the best plotted children’s books I’ve read in a long time, surpassing both Rowling and Pullman.
This is not a book for small children, however. Gaiman’s background in the rather visceral nature of comics comes through in his text and there are horrors and chills that could give a younger child some good nightmares. For adolescents and adults, though, this is a fun adventure.
[Finished 15 December 2017]