Girlgoyle

Girlgoyle

Girlgoyle was written by the fabulously named Better Hero Army and is due for release next week. It is a fantasy/horror story about a teenage girl being recruited as a ghost hunter following her own death. The novel is the first part of the Hollow Mountain Butterfly series and its sequel is currently cited for release in 2016. As this review is based on an ARC that I received from Netgalley, please note that it may not reflect the quality of the published work.

Tiffany Nobuo lived a happy life with her loving mother and father before she was mercilessly slain by Bones, an evil ghost. When she wakes up, she finds that she has lost everything that she held dear. She has been born again as a Gargoyle and now must live and work with others of her kind, hidden deep underground. As her rebirth has blessed her with wings, she is to be trained as a hunter – one who travels to the human world to protect its inhabitants from ghosts.

Tiffany finds it difficult to settle into her new life. The other girls in her dorm seem to be unnecessarily hostile and even her mentor, Franklin, tries to deter her from making friends with others. Yet she tries her best to learn more about how to use her powers and function as part of their society as she views it as her only chance of ever getting back to her family.

However, things are not that simple. In the surface world, Bones is growing increasingly powerful and is starting to recruit other ghosts into an army. His goal is to do something that no ghost has ever done before – to infiltrate the Hollow Mountain and destroy it from within…

Girlgoyle is another one of those books that really causes me some trouble as a reviewer – one of the ones that I really want to gush praise for but there are just a few niggling issues holding me back. Though to start with the positive, I really loved the concept for this story. The novel read as a bit of a cross between Dead Like Me and Soul Eater. Its use of Gargoyles was really original (although my inner critic would like to point out that the novel falls prey to the common mistake of referring to Grotesques as Gargoyles). It’s far more common to see angels, shinigami or demons assigned as protectors of the living in a novel of this sort and so it made a nice change to see Gargoyles getting a bit of love.

The art of the novel was also beautiful. I know that manga is not everyone’s cup of tea but I felt that it was very fitting for this story as it was evident that it took a lot from Japanese comic book-style story telling. I may be slightly biased as I am a big fan of the medium but I did feel that the illustrations were a nice addition to the novel, making me wish that I had a physical copy to admire rather than an eBook.

I also truly loved the setting, particularly as it appeared in the early chapters. As the novel follows Tiffany through her initial discovery of the Hollow Mountain the reader gets to experience everything as she does, gradually discovering the similarities and differences between the life of a human and the life of a Gargoyle. However, the presentation of the world leads to my first issue with the story. Army expects far too much of his reader.

This may seem like an odd complaint for me, especially as I am usually the first to whine when a novel spoon-feeds information to its audience, however I found myself frequently feeling lost within the Gargoyle world. Army is clearly a perfectly good writer and has a lot of very interesting ideas, yet these are not adequately explained to the reader within the story.

Characters (particularly Franklin) often refer to the process of “collecting the chimeras” but I never quite figured out exactly what this meant. Similarly, small statues allow travel between different locations and time periods but it’s never really explained how these work, where the statues came from or what exactly they are linked to (I thought they were bound to locations until one brief mention to one being linked to a ghost which completely threw me). Then there was the Endless See, which I initially thought was a typo yet turned out to be the actual name of…something. While it is clear this something exists somewhere outside of the mountain, I was really confused as to what it was or even if it was physical at all.

There was also a whole social aspect of the Gargoyle hierarchy that was brushed upon but never really developed. Essentially, what you do in the society is dependent on your physical attributes. Normal humanoid Gargoyles are the soldiers, ones with tails operate machines, ones with wings are hunters and the rare few blessed with wings and tails are nobility. There were hints that this structure was not favoured by everyone (one character mutilated himself in the past as he was so desperate to become a solider), yet this element of the plot was never really explored at length which left me feeling a little disappointed.

I also thought that the ending of the story was a bit lacklustre. While most of the novel was incredibly well paced, the climatic battle against Bones was quite rushed and difficult to follow, with characters making snap decisions based on seemingly no evidence. How Tiffany deduced the whereabouts of Bones’s remains is utterly beyond me, as I don’t recall her being told this information earlier in the novel. The way that the story wrapped up after the climax also felt incredibly hurried, utilising heavy exposition to sum up character arcs rather than showing them on page.

In terms of characterisation, I was actually rather impressed. Most of the primary cast were likable and interesting, causing me to hope that they made it out of the story in one piece and want to read on to discover more about them. Unfortunately, Army never really revealed much about any of the principle cast. Of all of them, Hedika probably receives the most development as we see her friendship with Tiffany slowly develop over the course of the story. For the other characters, important factors of their history are only hinted at. We learn next to nothing about Franklin’s backstory and we never even discover how Duke came by his disfiguring injuries. Most disappointing of all were the other girls in Tiffany’s dormitory, who played a vital role in the middle part of the story but largely dropped out of the novel as the climax began.

Tiffany was a hugely relatable protagonist – likable, realistic and (thankfully) possessing of a number of character flaws and weaknesses. Most of all, I appreciated that fact that Tiffany did not immediately forget about her past life as is often the case in paranormal novels. Tiffany is deeply saddened by the loss of her parents and throughout the novel we see her gradually coming to terms with this. I am a little concerned that her “rare abilities” will cause her to develop into a Mary Sue over the course of the rest of the series but I am prepared to read on in the hope that this will not be the case. As it stands, my only issue with her in this story was the author’s weird decision to have her wear nothing but a bra and panties throughout the final battle (it’s not even really fan services as she’s described as being unendowed and generally a bit average looking) but each to their own, I guess.

All in all, this novel was a bit of a mixed bag. It had a neat concept and, with a good edit to pick out the inconsistences and weak explanations, it could become a little gem. I think there’s enough here to keep a fantasy fan entertained but, unfortunately, it was a little average overall.

Girlgoyle is due for release on 15th July 2015 and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. louiseg12
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 21:08:57

    I’m suitably intrigued by this one as it sounds quite unique. Need to put in on TBR for next holiday.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: The Red Sun | Arkham Reviews

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