reviews

Book recommendation: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman

Now this was an interesting discovery.

I found on my library shelf this audiobook, which I’d read about on Neil Gaiman’s journal. It’s my first experience of a story with its own soundtrack, and it was very, very good. String instruments are the best.

It was also my first encounter with the story itself, and I’m glad I experienced it this way: in Neil Gaiman’s voice, with the string quartet setting each scene perfectly (though I really ought to look for the illustrated version, to appreciate the art as well). He reads very well, great inflection for both dialogue and narration.

No spoilers here — just a strong recommendation to look up this audiobook and experience it for yourselves. Also, assorted notes and appreciation of what Neil Gaiman does so well:

  • I don’t know why I’m always startled by how dark and horrifying his work can be (maybe because his online persona is so nice), but he startles me every time.
  • He does love to explore the dark old things that live hidden away in the earth.
  • Very slow introduction of characters (even first-person protagonists) and place, sometimes without ever naming them outright — just giving you enough to make the deductions. He doesn’t treat his readers like idiots. I was able to guess pretty early on that this took place in Scotland, but I had to look up later “the king across the water,” and I’m still not certain what…type…the protagonist’s father was.
  • More on how he builds his setting: so subtly, just a few details here and there, including how people live in the land the protagonist is passing through. I also really liked the fortune teller scene.
  • I have high appreciation for the details he pays to realism, even in a world that allows for the possibility of magic: like what the characters ate every day, how they got by. That’s some of my favorite details to read.
  • But I don’t know what price the protagonist paid for the bone awl.
  • I definitely pictured the protagonist’s golden-red-haired daughter as Merida of Brave, a movie I haven’t seen yet. Yes, even in the cave.
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