Released: February 3rd, 2011
Grade rating: B+
After Kyle's ordeal at school, his mother packs him off to the safety of the countryside, where there will be no temptation to use his powers, and he can forget the bad things - like the fact that his dad is a monster determined to destroy the world. But here's the thing about the countryside: it's full of nature, and nature sometimes has claws. Followed by a spindly figure in the woods and attacked by crows, Kyle is about to discover that NOWHERE is safe from the invisible fiends…
I don't think I've ever read a book more suitable for teenage boys than this one (and girls too, of course!). There's blood, guts, gore, continual scares and not an ounce of romance in sight. Don't get me wrong, I like my romance as much as the next girl, but sometimes I like a bit of good old-fashioned horror too. I'm a fan of old school monster movies, and The Crowmaster reminded me of just that. A lot of the thrills and chills were the result of tension building, while numerous deaths provided an ick-factor perfect for readers into action and gruesome ends.
The Crowmaster is the third book in the Invisible Fiends series, and is the first I've read so far. I wondered if I'd be able to follow it without being confused, and I was able to, very easily in fact. Hutchison does reference events previously seen in Mr Mumbles and Raggy Maggie, but he does so by providing a quick explanation too. Because of that I think each book in this series could probably be read as a standalone title, which will surely benefit reluctant readers and those who don't want to have to read a whole series.
Saying that, I'm going to go back and read Mr Mumbles and Raggy Maggie. I want to know what Kyle got up to and where his strange powers originated from. Kyle is one of those characters who doesn't seem to be afraid of much. Even though he's constanstly having to deal with monsters manifesting right in front of him, or family members being found in bloody puddles on the floor, he takes it all in his stride and sets out to save the world from people usually reserved for fictional horror films. At times Kyle's escapes can seem a bit convenient, but maybe time and luck is just on his side.
The Crowmaster isn't short of action or suspense, and it makes for a terrifying, compelling read. I read it straight through with a quick break for sleep, and am now wondering what took me so long to pick up one of these books. A fast-paced plot, memorable characters and smooth writing make it one definitely worth looking out for, but just make sure you don't read it when you're in the house on your own. You never do know what, or who, could be lurking in the shadows...
Author Interview: Barry Hutchison
Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger? If yes, was it as creepy as those that Kyle encounters?
Everyone sort of assumes that I must have had, but I didn't. My older sister did, though, and that was part of the inspiration for the series. She's eight years older than me, and had outgrown her imaginary friend before I came along, but I remember my mum telling me the story one day. My sister's imaginary friend was a little girl called Caddie. I used the name for the villain in book 2 - Caddie is the demented little girl who carries Raggy Maggie around with her.
In my parents' house is an air vent, about twenty centimetres high by about thirty-five across. It's part of the heating system for the house. My sister used to believe that Caddie was wedged into this air vent, with her face pressed right up against the metal bars. So she could fit in the narrow space, Caddie's arms and legs had been broken, and so she was essentially this folded up little girl who whispered instructions to my then-five-year-old sister.
She was mental my sister.
Personally, I think the image of this whispering child, with her skeleton essentially snapped in half, is way creepier than anything in the Invisible Fiends book so far. Note I said "so far"...
Which is your favourite fiend so far: Mr Mumbles, Raggy Maggie or the Crowmaster?
"Favourite" is an odd word when it comes to choosing between psychotic would-be serial killers, don't you think? I mean, I wouldn't want to go down the pub with any of them. Especially Raggy Maggie, because all my mates would laugh. Until she stabbed them in the neck, at least.
I think when it comes to blood-chilling scares, Caddie and Raggy Maggie stand out. Mr Mumbles and the Crowmaster are both terrifying and revolting in equal measures, but - for me - Caddie and Raggy Maggie win hands down in the "I just pooped my pants" stakes. When I was writing that book I used to find myself getting more and more unsettled every time Caddie made Raggy Maggie "talk". After the "Red Room" chapter I had to go and take a walk outside because I'd creeped myself out so much writing Caddie's dialogue.
So they're the scariest, I think, but I'm actually quite attached to Mr Mumbles (not in a romantic sense) as a character. He's the only one who has any history with Kyle (the hero of the books), and I almost felt bad doing what I did to him at the end of the first book. Plus, he had a nice hat. So, yeah, let's say Mr Mumbles is my favourite.
How many Invisible Fiends books do you plan to write?
Six. There have always been six planned. The prologue at the start of the other books actually comes from about the halfway point of book six, so I had to plan a lot of the series out in meticulous detail to know exactly what was going to happen in that scene. After the prologue in each book, the story jumps back to a previous time. So, after the prologue in book one, the next page says "Thirty-four days earlier..." and then we jump back thirty-four days to when Mr Mumbles first appears. Book four is "Three days earlier..." and after the prologue in book six the story jumps back just a few hours, then builds up to that scene and beyond.
So, each book is essentially counting down to the events depicted in the prologue. And I'm not giving anything away when I say that the prologue features THE END OF THE WORLD! That deserved block capitals, and you know it.
Have you always been a fan of the horror genre? What started you off?
To be completely honest, I've never been a big fan of horror. When I was a kid I was scared of pretty much everything in the world. I was scared of dogs, cats, birds, goldfish, being outside, being inside, being high up, being low down... I went through about the first ten years of life utterly convinced something was going to kill me horribly at any moment.
Living in such a perpetual state of terror, the last thing I needed was to add fuel to the fire by reading horror stories. As I grew up, I managed to train myself not to be scared of things - it was an actual conscious process of giving myself a good talking to every time I got scared of something I shouldn't have been scared of.
Nowadays I don't read a lot of horror because I don't find most of it scary. I learned to overcome all the worst horrors my imagination could throw at me when I was younger, so now nothing really comes close to creeping me out, whether it be in books, films or whatever. Except Raggy Maggie, obviously. And I did have to sleep with the light on for weeks after writing Book 4...
What can we expect from book 4, Doc Mortis?
Book 4 is, I think, my favourite of the series so far. It's a bit of a change of pace, in that Kyle finds himself stranded in the Darkest Corners (the Hell-like dimension where forgotten imaginary friends go) where he has no special abilities, and no Ameena to help fight his battles. It's darker than the others - much darker - but I actually think it has more of a heart to it than the other books. My editor actually had a wee tear in her eye during the final scenes.
Those looking for action and horror and things going "WAAARGH!" will be in for a treat, but I like to think there's much more to this one than just more scares and black humour. There's more emotional depth, and Kyle himself undergoes some fairly major character changes, which will have repercussions for the rest of the series. Doc Mortis himself is also - by far - the creepiest, most disturbing character yet. He's enough to give Raggy Maggie nightmares.