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The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis - review

"Run. And James did. Through the gap in the garden fence. Not stopping even after the bellowing of his stepfather had wasted in the wind and there was nothing but the whip of grass across his shins.”

Title: The Dark Inside
Author: Rupert Wallis

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Buy it: Here

Synopsis

James is an extremely unhappy 13 year old; he lost his mum in a car accident and lives in fear of his stepfather, his only guardian. He often escapes his home to The House on the Hill to write down his hopes and dreams for the future. One day at the House on the Hill, James discovers a large man; he is gravely wounded and wanted by the local traveller community who are offering a reward of gold. As James befriends the man, he begins a journey that will lead him away from the dark of his home life, into a whole new darkness he never even knew existed.

Review

The Dark Inside is a book that took me by surprise again and again. Everything I was expecting when I opened up at the first page was flipped on it's head. I thought I would be reading an adventure story with dark undertones, and yes, I got that. But what I also found was a story of the meaning of friendship, of learning forgiveness, of hope and of hopelessness.

The characters in this story are united by their sense of loneliness and loss, and here the author explores the bonds of friendship between unlikely men; a cursed war veteran, an abused boy and an elderly stroke victim. Each of these characters were beautifully written, not speaking much but saying the things that they did say meaningfully. This sparseness of dialogue might make a story drag in some cases, but here it seemed fitting. The supporting writing didn't call for much dialogue either, as it sweeps the reader through the action at great pace.

I found the travellers in the story to be at once interesting and unsettling. It is in these characters the author asks the most of his reader's suspended disbelief, as we witness an elderly woman consulting a marionette that appears to be alive, and healing wounds with herbal concoctions. In the middle of a very "real" narrative these hints at magic were a bit unexpected, but added a great level of uncertainty to the already mysterious plot.
The traveller characters are completely surrounded in folklore, traditions and superstition, and I was willing, as a reader, to accept anything they could make happen. I did however, find their penchant for kidnapping and holding hostages clashed with their strong sense of family and honour.

The story itself was fast paced, and often profound. The reader is constantly thrown little snippets of philosophy and musings on life. The tagline of the book "Do you believe in monsters?" comes into full effect in many ways throughout the narrative as we see characters battle with mental and physical demons and running from threats both imagined and real.

Overall

The Dark Inside reads like a gothic fairytale. There are witches, monsters, magic and evil step parents, albeit in many different guises. There is a heavy lacing of folklore and a good dose of mild horror. I really enjoyed this book once the idea of "the unbelievable" had gained its footing. The novel asks you to suspend your belief and question yourself in doing so at the same time, which was an intriguing stance to be put in as a reader. I will definitely be looking for more by this author in future!

Score 
★★★

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