This novel, a stand-alone urban fantasy about a hidden world that lurks beneath the streets of London, the world of London Below, consisting of all those who have ‘fallen between the cracks of reality’, was a charming reading experience. Reminiscent of childhood classics like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the other world of this story is much like a Narnia for adults – filled with monsters and saints, angels and knights, and, most importantly, a strong sense of mission and purpose which forms the core of the book.
Richard Mayhew leads a very ordinary, conventional life. A businessman in London, and engaged to a beautiful but demanding woman, it is his kind and caring nature which eventually leads to his discovery of this other London. A single act of compassion catapults him out of his everyday existence, and hurls him into a world that is totally and utterly bizarre, yet, as we discover, equally delightful. Being a Londoner myself, the joys of meeting an angel named Islington, a mysterious Night’s Bridge whose darkness sometimes swallows up those who cross it, a group of people called the Black Friars, and the Earl of Earl’s Court, were hugely enjoyable and added a new, wonderfully wacky dimension to my conception of London.
Besides of course Harry Potter, fantasy is not an area of fiction I had ever really explored or found myself at home with. But the pleasure of discovering The Floating Market, a giant bazaar (which moves from location to location) where people trade all manners of junk and magical items, was one which was reminiscent of the first time experiencing the moving staircases of Hogwarts. So, even for those who find fantasy somewhat out of their comfort zone, this book will certainly surprise and enchant. My experience as the reader in many ways paralleled the experience of Richard as he slowly fell from the reality we all know (and sometimes detest).
Many times while reading Neverwhere, I found myself marvelling at how the author had created such a mad yet utterly delightful world. The story made me think of me of a huge pot of boiling, bubbling magic potion, filled with all kinds of ingredients, both familiar and rare, waiting to be tasted. Looking forward to reading more of Neil Gaiman’s stuff.