This amazing world that debut author James Treadwell has created begins in 1537 where we meet Johannes Faust as he prepares to set sail for England. The next chapter we meet Gavin Stokes who is on the train that will take him to his aunt Gwen in Cornwall. On the train he meets Professor Hester Lightfoot (who is a key character in certain events) and we’re introduced to the ghost of Miss Grey … who used to be accepted as Gavin’s ‘invisible friend’ when younger but is not accepted by his family now. On reaching the lodge where Gwen lives on the Pendurra estate, he finds it empty although the fire is lit and there are signs of recent habitation. What follows is a quest that intrigues and entrances and is completely absorbing.
The story is told by weaving backwards and forwards in time with one difference – the timeline in 1537 regresses so the further you read on in the story, the more intrigue there is because you have an answer but you don’t know the why or the circumstances. When we get to the timelines merging into present day is the time when spirit becomes flesh and the world changes beyond recognition.
The environment is perfect for the suspense. We have Pendurra, which is an isolated estate with woods leading down to the river and the sea. There is something different about the land and there is gossip and rumours about it’s owner, Tristram Urem. It is October so the nature around us is bare and stagnant. During the conflict there is snow but not just flakes drifting down, blizzard conditions that blanket everything. There is physical endurance that almost goes beyond what a body can bear.
The magic runs throughout Advent. I loved it that the author goes back to a time when science was parting from magic – whereas at one point they belonged together, man chose to believe only that which he could see. This is quite a key factor, the absence of magic, not only in 1537 but also in the present world.
Following our hero Gavin through the story, we see him at first as afraid of himself but there comes a point when he experiences a re-birth (symbolised by taking on the mantle of his name). It is in the depths of his misery with no-where left to go when he finds strength and purpose.
There is a mixture of characters both adult and children although it is the children who are the leads. The magical beings all portray characteristics that are common in myth. At one point in the story I was cheering for Corbo but at another, felt totally betrayed!
If you have ever been interested in magic/alchemy/myth you may have come across Johannes Faust and his quest for immortality. The author uses this in such a creative way and is central to the story. The author also uses the symbolism of a ring – from time immemorial the hole in the centre has represented a gateway or door and the circle is a perfect expression of infinity – no beginning and no end. This is cleverly crafted as an integral part of the story. You may also have read about the music of the spheres … I loved the way Treadwell wove this into the tale.
The ending ties up with a physical place that Gavin mentions only once (if my recollection is correct) but with a different family and the scene is still on a mystical level. It is so far away from the place we have just left though I can’t begin to image what the connection actually is – why are we there? and does Gavin and Marina appear? What about Harold? This leaves me with so many questions … I so need to read the second story!
The language used in Advent is mature and the story gripping and fast paced enough that adult readers will enjoy this world just as much as a teen reader. If you loved A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness you will love this too!