Wednesday 27 January 2010

Lex Trent versus the Gods - Alex Bell

Lex Trent versus the Gods, Alex Bell’s first YA novel, introduces us to Lex Trent, a thief, swindler, and all-round rogue. He has taken one chance too many and finds himself caught up in the Games, playing as a representative of Lady Luck. We follow his various trials and tribulations over the course of the Game.

Lex Trent versus the Gods takes a little while to really get started — setting the scene and allowing us to get to know Lex — but by the time you reach page 64, you simply cannot put the book down and find yourself gripped by all of Lex’s adventures. Even though Lex is insufferably smug and selfish beyond belief, you just can’t help rooting for him. The book is chockfull of other memorable characters, too. One of my favourites is the representation of Lady Luck as a rather ditzy blonde!

By far the best part of Lex Trent versus the Gods is the sheer imagination on display. Bell takes fairy tales, myths and exotic concepts, and weaves them into the story so that you are not surprised by wicked witches and fairy godmothers sharing the same woodland, or by griffins guarding the ladders that link Lands Above and Lands Beneath. I enjoyed the way that Bell gave us this nice mix of typical fantasy tropes, but combined them with rather more mundane settings. Even if the plot hadn’t been particularly good, Lex Trent versus the Gods would still be worth reading for this aspect alone.

Luckily, though, the plot is good. It races past breathlessly (once it has been set alight by the introduction of the Games) — maybe a little too quickly at times. It doesn’t feel as though we have much downtime before the next exhilarating event or daring swindle is taking place. I was a little disappointed with the way Lex’s story is resolved, but that might be to personal taste.

Alex Bell writes with a fluid style that invites the reader to turn the pages quickly. There are plenty of humorous quirks that had me smiling, and a couple of times I found it laugh-out-loud funny (the whole chapter “Muggets and Whiskerfish” was a particular highlight).

My one real complaint is this: I can see why Bell has hung the first part of the story around a legal firm (she was a law student — write about what you know and all that); in fact, Lex Trent’s boredom with the legal profession lends it a ring of authenticity — but when set in a world so magical and unusual, the legal profession sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m sure this was the point (purposely ridiculous), but I found it distracting. Every time I had to move from enchanters and gods to a legal firm, I had a real jarring moment.

But this is a very minor issue when balanced against the fun to be had reading Lex Trent versus the Gods. I would recommend it for fans of Garth Nix and Terry Pratchett's YA Discworld books.

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