Dungeons and Dragons, time travel, ‘80’s Britian.. just like a Doctor Who episode but with more gore.
Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction
No. of pages: 201
In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.
Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.
He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.
‘One Word Kill’ is such a great concept and told in a way that felt realistic and grounded – if not intertwined with Dungeons and Dragons symbolism.
It is set in the ‘80’s London, and we get a heavy dose of that in the narrative which I adored. But I was a little thrown with the drug dealing arc, and how homosexuality was dealt with. The former was quite violent and confronting for me, and the latter had more of a current-day attitude. Being gay in the ‘80’s was a more turbulent topic, and I would have liked this developed more and ring true to the era.
I guessed the plot very early on, especially after the introduction of the ‘bald stalker.’ I jumped into ‘One Word Kill’ with no prior knowledge other than a few firm recommendations from fellow bloggers and intrigued by the premise. But I really enjoyed Mark Lawrence’s writing style, it has a raw flourish to it that feel unique and lends to the atmosphere of the novel.
Told in first person from our protagonist, Mark’s point of view; the opening scene of him dealing with a cancer diagnosis. A great way to grab my attention. ‘One Word Kill’ was a joy to read. Lawrence does not waste words, each scene moves the story forward at a cracking pace.
I think I struggled with the content most of all which is why I have given it the rating I have. It felt slightly scattered and confronting at the same time. Having a small gang added to the ‘80’s nostalgia like a lot of the films from that era a’la ‘The Goonies,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ but given the books length don’t get to fully establish and explore the relationships.
A sidebar for some readers: there is graphic content, which shocked me a little given the YA demographic of ‘One Word Kill.’
Although this novel can be read as a standalone, and the major plots points are resolved, I felt like it wasn’t resounding enough for me know the story is finished, and thus am keen to get my hands on the sequel ‘Limited Wish.’ Which is another reason for the rating – maybe the story was too short to fully explore the characters, themes and take the protagonist on a journey that changes him. We get that but in a micro-dose. This was my first novel from Lawrence and colour me impressed. It reminds me of the way Seanan McGuire writes: colourful, novella-lengthed stories within a single universe.
Overall feeling: Great little discovery 🙂
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