For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob – a young lawyer with an utterly normal life – hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other.
But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing. There’s someone else out there who shares his powers and it’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them – before anyone gets to The End.
This was the 3rd book from my 12 months/12 friends/12 books challenge & it honestly came at the perfect time, a time when I was struggling to get into books, especially fantasy. But The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep made me remember all the reasons why I loved reading, the escapism, meeting all the fantastic characters, and travelling to new worlds.
Rob has always been a little annoyed, in awe and jealous of his younger brother Charley. Ever since they were children. Charley has been smarter than him, years ahead of anyone else his age, and on top of all this he has a unlikely talent, he is able to read characters out of their books, something that he does more often than he should. This latest time though was a little different, when Charley when to put Uriah Heep back in his book he gave them a warning ‘ a new world was coming, and they wouldn’t like it.’ But then more book characters start appearing, one’s that Charley hasn’t brought to life, and the brothers realise there is someone else out there like him. Someone who doesn’t accidentally bring characters to life, but intentionally, and for nefarious reasons. Charley and a reluctant Rob know they have to stop this person, but it will take everybody, characters and human alike to stop their plan before it reaches the end.
If you’re a book lover there is no way that you wont enjoy this book, largely because of the cast of characters. While Parry brings to life a whole host of literary greats from Fitzwillam Darcy to Matilda, Dorian Grey to The White Witch, Lancelot to Heathcliff, the story really stands out because it’s told from Rob’s perspective. Rob, who has always resented his brothers gift, not just because of jealously, but also because it impedes on his life. He would do anything to protect Charley, and that includes climbing out of bed at 5am to go and help him catch his latest literary escapee. But it’s through his eyes we see the mystery unfold, we feel his fear that Charley prefers his literary characters to the real breathing ones from his family. Having the mystery of Charley’s power, as well as who the other ‘summoner’ is be told from Rob’s perspective was something truly unique, because he wanted to belong in his brothers world, but never quite felt like he fit there, not knowing that Charley felt similarly. We do get a few chapters from other POV’s; Lydia, Rob’s girlfriend who he has kept in the dark about Charley’s secret and Millie Radcliffe-Dix, a character from a children’s book who had been read to life years ago. These both add an extra depth and magic to the story, letting us see it unfold from multiple perspectives.
Though Charley may not have his own POV chapter, Parry uses him to really hit on what it is to be a reader, to want to escape to a literary world, or have it come to life in our own. The wish that we could converse with our favourite literary characters, our need sometimes to vanish into those worlds to escape from our own. That feeling that only comes from returning to a favourite book, knowing that nothing can hurt, or surprise you, that everything will work out as it should, the feeling of coming home. He is what every reader wishes they were, and you can’t help but get swayed by his excitement as the story unfolds, even if they are in danger some of the times. The parallels between Rob and Charlie were just excellently done. Rob is essentially the adult us, when we loose our belief of things like magic. Whereas Charley is the forever child, wide eyed and amazed by all he sees, but through the story we see Rob slowly realise that you can be an adult and still believe in magic, still be amazed by the unknown, and it was truly wonderful being able to follow him on that journey.
One of my favourite parts of this book was the magic system. Not just the ability to read characters out of their books, but that the summoner could alter their behaviour, their looks, their abilities. While Charley has the ability to read characters to life at will, it is theorised that other people, once in their lives, may be that connected to a story, to a character, that they manage to bring them to life, and with it their idea of the character pops out. Parry makes it clear that everyone views characters differently, be it tainted by a movie adaptation, or affected by their feelings/emotions at the time of reading. The idea that we can resonate with a character to such a level that we literally bring them to life is so incredibly magical, and I adored all the little scenes where she delved into this and showed it through the multiple literary characters that inhabit her book from Dorian Grey who was a whiz on the computer, to the five different Darcy’s all influenced by different versions of the book/film.
I can honestly say I’ve never felt more seen when reading a book, nor more at home. It made me realise that it’s ok to still believe in magic, to want a world where literary characters can come to life. This is my third book by Parry and she has this knack of ensuring you get invested in the story until you almost become a part of it. I was taken through a true rigmarole of emotions reading this from excitement, to incredible sadness, but the thing Parry really excels at are those scenes that make your hairs stand on end, that get you sat on the edge of your seat, the ones that have you almost whooping out loud at the sheer excitement you feel whilst reading them. I can safely say that Parry has cemented herself in my all time favourite author list, and, as annoyed as I am it took me this long to pick this book up, I also feel like it came at the perfect time, just when I was falling out of love with reading, because it made me fall right back in love again.