Gaiman has always been hit or miss for me. Some of his books I love, some I don’t care for, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Neverwhere, outside of the fact that there’s something deeply satisfying about holding the illustrated version—something about thick little hardcovers is just the best feeling. Anyway, Neverwhere is a not subtle in its message: the homeless are invisible to those who want to pretend the “problem” doesn’t exist—but make it magic that has a very Tim Burton feel, because this is Gaiman, after all. When Richard sees one of those who have fallen through the cracks—a citizen of London Below—and proceeds to help her, it sets off a chain of events that plunges him into London Below and makes him just as invisible to London Above, and his old life, as the rest of the characters in this novel. In which there a lot, all of which are unique and magical and so beautifully distinct from each other. I even loved Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup who are unequivocally terrible people, but they are written in such a creative way that I couldn’t help but love them just as much as Richard and our heroine Door, with her opal-colored eyes.
I loved the prose of Neverwhere, it read almost like it was meant for children when it’s so clearly not. There’s this whimsy to it, alongside Gaiman’s love of a metaphor and simile, which made the whole style just as magical as London Below. Speaking of, I loved the characters that populated this secret place. Gaiman was able to weave in a complex mystery and twists and turns into something that should have been an otherwise very straight forward plot: find out why/who is after Door and killed her family, and get Richard back to London Above. Gaimain, in this particular book anyway, is able to make you love and care for a character so, so deeply and then cut you to the core by taking them away all in one chapter. He’s also able to play with your mind about what is truly reality for Richard, and who should our main characters trust in a way that really added to the twists at the end. It was masterfully done!
I will say that I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab before reading Neverwhere, and after reading Gaiman’s book, it’s really easy to see where Schwab got a lot of inspiration for that series: everything from the different types of Londons that only one person really seems to be able to move between, and even a certain magical coat. I’m not mad about this at all! It’s clear that Schwab idolizes Gaiman, and her writing is an homage to that without being a rip off. Its just something to keep in mind if you read this and things start sounding… familiar.
All in all, this was a perfectly satisfying read—from just holding the book, to the perfect illustrations, the magical whimsy of the writing, and the cast of incredible characters that inhabit London Below. The story is dark, but with moments of tenderness and humor so I never felt bogged down to the point where I could no longer appreciate the imagery. Gaiman’s fantasy is always a reflection of reality with fantastic elements, so the ugly parts of our world are still present, but made magic so when you read you don’t necessarily feel preached to. But I can definitely understand why this style may not be for everyone—Gaiman doesn’t describe anything in a straightforward manner, instead almost tricking the reader into visualizing these delightful things. Which I loved, personally! This book was quirky and deep, fantastic and the kind of realistic urban fantasy I didn’t know I was missing until now, which is why this gets an easy 5 stars from me!
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