Monday, June 20, 2016

A Raucous Time - Julia Hughes

    2013; 246 pages.  Book 1 (out of four) in the Celtic Cousins’ Adventures series.   New Author? : Yes.  Genre : YA Mystery, with a smidgen of Fantasy thrown in.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    Right now, life could be better for Rhyllan “Annie” Jones.  Just 15 years old, he has to fend for himself, as his mum, Tricia, is “away on business”; his “Gran” has been attacked and is in the hospital; and Aunt Sarah is unavailable as well.  Even worse, his cousin and best chum, Wren Prenderson (Aunt Sarah’s son), is in the hospital as well, a victim in the same attack that felled Gran.

    Now the police are coming around, asking all sorts of questions, and there is a very keen possibility that child services will be called in.  After all, it certainly appears that Rhyllan and Wren have both been abandoned.

     One policeman in particular, Detective Inspector Crombie, has become a major thorn in Rhyllan’s life.  He’s canny and perceptive, and seems to see right through Annie’s lies about his mum’s whereabouts.  But does Crombie really want to help?

    Or is he part of the gang of thugs that assaulted Gran and Wren?
What’s To Like...
    A Raucous Time follows Wren and Rhyllan as they endeavor to find some sort of hidden treasure that Wren claims to know about from an old Welsh manuscript that he was asked to translate.  Naturally, there are also a bunch of bad guys who want to find the treasure as well, and a team of cops, headed by DI Crombie, who seem to always be a step slow due to one or more turncoats in their midst.

    It’s fun to try and figure out alongside Rhyllan where Crombie’s allegiance lies.  It's also a challenge to the reader and Rhyllan to determine whether there’s any treasure at all.  Wren swears there is, but is he psychic, conniving, possessed, or just plain crazy?  In any event, the Wren/Rhyllan relationship takes on a  sort of “Frodo/Samwise” feel, and I like stories where we follow the #2 guy more than The Chosen One.

    The majority of the book is set in Wales, and that’s a plus.  And instead of sunshine and butterflies, we trudge around in torrential downpours and treacherous moors.  I enjoyed getting soaked to the skin with our adventurers.  And even the final setting, the ruins of Tintagel Castle, are more creepy than spectacular.  Utter kewlness.

    This is a YA mystery tale, bordering on Juvenile.  So there’s no romance, booze, sex, drugs, or adult situations.  There's a smattering of mild cussing, but mostly by our two teenagers.  Finally, the book is written in “English”, as opposed to “American”, and that’s always a delight for me.

Kewlest New Word ...
ASBO (n., Acronym) : stands for Anti-Social Behaviour Order, a civil order made in the United Kingdom against a person who had been shown, on the balance of evidence, to have engaged in anti-social behaviour.
Others : Frowsty (adj.); Toerag (n.); Manky (adj.); Bolshy (adj.); Splodge (v.); Sarky (adj.)These are all Britishisms.

    Crombie decided he’d visit the hospital after lunch, although again he doubted if Mike Stern’s “grandson” had anything to add, but it would look as though he’d been thorough in his report, which would recommend surveillance.
    Shorthand for “I haven’t a bloody clue what to do next.”  (loc. 799)

    “Hey Annie.  You and me are special.  We’re having private lessons.”
    Mr. Robinson sniffed.  “You certainly are special.  Follow me please,” he flicked at Rhyllan’s hair and frowned.  “I thought I told you to get this cut?”
    Wren snapped.  “He can’t.  It’s his religion.”
    Robinson’s eyebrows rose, wrinkling his bald scalp.  “Pray do tell.  And what religion would that be?”
    “Pantheism.”  (loc. 2345)

Kindle Details...
    A Raucous Time is free at Amazon, which, ANAICT, is standard for this book.  The other three books in the series are all $0.99 each.  Julia Hughes has about 8 other e-books available, and they are all in the free-to-$0.99 range.

 “Some of us actually like kids.  Couldn’t eat a whole one though.”  (loc. 1650)
    I had some problems with A Raucous Time.  First and foremost, the storytelling often had me in a daze.  The plotline seemed to assume the reader knows things like: Rhyllan’s mum is MIA and undercover; Wren’s mum is in prison; Rhyllan is Old Man Stern’s grandson (or at least he claims to be), and Wren and Gran had been attacked for reasons unknown just prior to the start of the book.  We gradually glean all these important details, but hey, it would’ve been nice to have a coherent backstory early on, especially since I wasn't looking for one, given that this is the first book in the series.

    The other problem were the protagonists themselves – simply put, they’re neither nice nor believable.  They steal airplanes (WTF?  Teenagers steal airplanes?!), bikes, and food; and break into houses via rocks thrown through the front window.  Are they hooligans or heroes?

    In the end, my favorite character turned out to be DI Crombie, despite his questionable loyalties.  And FWIW, it may be that the author feels the same way, since in researching the rest of the series, it appears that DI Crombie is going to become a recurring major character.

    5½ Stars.  If you can make it through the confusing storytelling that plagues the first half of the book, things eventually straighten out and you're treated to a fast-paced second half “quest” with lots of thrills and spills.  The book’s sequel, A Ripple in Time, is on my Kindle, and I vaguely recall reading that it was actually published before A Raucous Time.  So maybe the elusive backstory resides there.  Or perhaps there was an earlier series that I should’ve read first.  Who knows.  We shall see.  In time.

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