Book Review: Candle Man, Book 1: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance

All of his life, Theo has been told that he suffers from a rare and dangerous disease only treatable by his guardian Dr. Saintly’s technological innovation, the Mercy Tube.  He is never allowed to socialize with anyone other than his three caretakers, Dr. Saintly, Mr. Nicely the butler, and Clarice the deaf maid; and under no circumstances must he touch anyone with his bare hands.  He’s told that this is because his condition is dangerous to humans, that only the Mercy Tube can cure him, and that he should be grateful for the care of his guardian and servants.

Theo’s world changes when, on his thirteenth birthday, Mr. Nicely takes him for a nice stroll around the cemetery. . . and he finds a parcel with his name written on it.  Back in his room, he secretly pieces together a message from someone outside his small world.  This unknown friend claims he’s in danger, which is confirmed when Clarice helps him escape from Dr. Saintly’s hold.

Free for the first time, Theo learns that Dr. Saintly is the head of the Society of Good Works, which, contrary to its name, has good deeds last on its mind; and the mysterious people who sent him the note are the remnants of the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance. Both societies have been waiting for generations for an heir of the Candle Man to be born. . . and Theo is that heir.  With friends and enemies both clamoring for Theo’s cooperation, what will he choose to do?

Glenn Dakin is a children’s TV show writer who has branched out into novels.  Good call, I say; I found The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance to be enjoyable. Theo’s adventure is interesting, and a strong point is that it starts out with Theo being sheltered from the world by his guardian and servants.  He’s bored and annoyed, but doesn’t really suspect ill intent.  Well, why would he?  He was raised that way!  And Dakin did reference Theo’s upbringing throughout the story, such as his impulse to obey authority and his awkwardness when it comes to affection (he was raised in a comfortable, yet unloving, household) even as he longs for it.

Another thing I liked was the network of tunnels under London, which leaves the city open to both Societies and various other people in the know.  It leaves many interesting paths available for future books. . . what secrets lurk in the catacombs?

Of course, I can’t go over the strong points without noting the weak ones.  There was nothing major this time.  The dialogue was a little stilted at times, the characters were a little 2-D, and story seemed awkwardly placed somewhere in between a steampunk fantasy and a contemporary superhero story. . . maybe a little more world-building would have fixed that. In other news, Dakin could have written a little more detail into the story; it was written in more of a telling fashion, leaving detail a bit bare in parts.

The other problem I noticed was that the first five pages were the best five pages.  This is more of a pet peeve of mine rather than an actual problem though–I dislike it when an author puts so much effort into hooking the reader, only to coast comfortably through the rest of the story.  I understand why authors do this (they need to hook the agent/publisher first, which means the first five pages have to be the cream of the crop), but I prefer a story that starts out slow and builds to the climax rather than one that hooks me instantly then paces along at a moderate pace.

In my last post, I wrote about my fears that Vigilance would end on a massive cliffhanger.  Luckily, I was wrong.  Theo’s adventure ends without any cliffhanger of note, but there is definitely a hint of future adventures.  After all, as the new Candle Man, Theo’s inherited a lot of enemies. . . and we all know what that means. . . 😀  Without spoiling the story, though, I’ll say that Theo overcomes the difficulties set out before him and is able to rest before his next adventure.  Which is as it should be.  Good job, Glenn Dakin!

My overall score would be a 3.5/5.  It wasn’t spectacular (of course, I was reading Lord of the Rings lately, so I might be a bit biased), but it’s still worth checking out.  I put a hold on the second book in the series, The Society of Dread, as soon as I finished Vigilance, if that gives you a better indication of how much I enjoyed it.

If you’ve read Vigilance, how did you like it?  If you haven’t, do you think you would like to?  Let me know what you think in the comments!


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