The Ninth Circle by Alex Bell
Published in paperback on 9 April 2009 by Gollancz
Waking up with no idea who you are is a standard literary device. And that’s the problem that Gabriel Anteus has in The Ninth Circle. Faced with having no idea who he is and the worry of forgetting everything he’s learned since waking up he starts writing it down. The story comprises of a series of diary entries from 8th August to 1st January as Gabriel tries to figure out who he was and tries to build a life again.
Due to the format we get a selected so edited personal retelling of the events that happen to Gabriel but Alex Bell’s skill is melting these diary entries with narrative storytelling and the voice and Gabriel so you get absorbed into the story and Gabriel as a storyteller. You also get the feeling that the ending might not be a good one as this could just be a found diary rather than a story where everything turns out all right in the end.
The revelations of what Gabriel finds out are the whole crux of the story so letting go any snippets might spoil it but I do have to give you some idea of what’s going on. So what can I tell you?
It’s set in Budapest and sometime around the present. At least enough present to have have a computer and internet access. Budapest plays a strong part and the city is beautifully described. Gabriel has lots of books on Demons and Angels and it seems that some of this knowledge is more practical than theoretical.
Bell does a great job of building the story through the recounting of the thoughts and actions of Gabriel. He’s a very honest narrator and says it like it is. Nothing feels hidden or emitted just for the sake of securing the story. She does a job of keeping things moving and giving us just enough to keep moving and wanting to know more.
There are some quirks however, I was a little disappointed with one of the threads about Gabriel’s identity. I think I wanted it to be more mundane. But it does explain a lot about his present situation.The other thing is that the diary format does take some of the awesome nature away from the closing scenes.
Saying that I found The Ninth Circle, compelling, descriptive, thoughtful and fully packed. Alex Bell’s debut makes her an author that I’m eager to read more of.
Alex Bell’s next book is Jasmyn is out 18 June 2009
One day, without warning, Jasmyn’s husband died of an aneurysm. Since then, everything has been different. Wrapped up in her grief, Jasmyn is trapped in a world without colour, without flavour – without Liam. But even through the haze of misery she begins to notice strange events. Even with Liam gone, things are not as they should be, and eventually Jasmyn begins to explore the mysteries that have sprung up after her husband’s death . . . and follow their trail back into the events of his life. But the mysteries are deeper than Jasmyn expects, and are leading her in unexpected directions – into fairytales filled with swans, castles and bones; into a tale of a murder committed by a lake and a vicious battle between brothers; into a story of a lost past, and a stolen love. She’s entering a magical story. Jasmyn’s story.