The Honours by Tim Clare
Tim Clare is a stand-up poet and the author of award-winning memoir We Can’t All Be Astronauts. His debut novel, The Honours, is a tightly plotted fantasy told through the eyes of a rebellious, rifle-toting and combat-obsessed 13-year-old named Delphine. When Delphine’s parents move her to Alderberen Hall, having joined its mysterious society, she sets out to uncover its secrets after overhearing a suspicious conversation. Soon the daring and ingenious heroine has discovered a network of secret passages, enabling her to spy on the house guests.
Unfortunately for the reader, the guests are a cast of clichéd eccentrics, including an elderly reclusive lord, a bossy housekeeper and a dark stranger from the east with alleged mystical powers. The failure of these characters to come alive makes it difficult to emotionally engage with the novel as the plot progresses. Clare can certainly write and has a boundless imagination coupled with an ability to fully inhabit and convey his fantasy world. However, the action-packed and intensely detailed plot often struggles to deliver a genuine sense of intrigue. The short sections of the book that take place away from Alderberen Hall are actually more atmospheric and enjoyable, with Delphine’s character given a little space to breathe within the narrative. Although a pacy and richly described read, Clare’s debut is not as engaging as anticipated.