This has been my favorite book for a long time, and it would make the a perfect movie for an audience used to fantasy-action dramas.
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding is the story of Thaniel, a wych-hunter in Victorian London. The first scene is a fabulous introduction of him and his partner/metor Cathaline as they track down the typical creatures they hunt, which are demons and creatures that haunt the edges of nightmare. On one of these missions he meets the beautiful and possessed Alaizabel Cray, who holds the key to the end of the world.
I like this book for a lot of reasons- Chris Wooding is a god when it somes to spinning beautiful fantasy stories with intricate plots. All of this books in the US are Young Adult, but he writes fantasy for adults too, they’re just published in England (to which I say, Chris Wooding’s publishers, COME ON ALREADY! I need more fantasy action!).
Alaizabel Cray has a lot of vivid characters too that shine out well in both the traditional and nonorthodox ways of fantasy fiction. Thaniel is the go-to hero character with daddy issues, but it doesn’t frustrate me as much as if a lesser author had overdone it. Everything works with his character, personality, and why he is a wych-hunter (his father was one before him). Alaizabel is a Victorian heroine in the style of Mina Harker, where she has the ability to kick some ass herself and learn magic from the spirit possessing her.
Then there are some minor characters that play huge roles in the story: Stich-face, the Jack the Ripper-esque character who wears a bag for a mask drawn into a terrible face and a woman’s curly wig while he haunts the London streets; Cathaine, who turns the idea of the Proper Victorian Woman on it’s head; Mammon Pyke, the dispicable head of the Lunatic Asylum located just outside of the city; Maycraft, the middle-aged detective. They’re all drawn so well into the story of Alaizabel that I just can’t stand it.
The scene is beautifully crafted as London at it’s worse, with demons and wyches, wolves and lunatics running about the southside. In some ways it reminds me of reading steam punk, but that’s because it’s Victorian with a twist. The twist in this case is fantasy instead of science fiction, so it suits me better anyway.
So why would this make a great movie? It’s perfect for the fantasy-crowd, which exists anyway but was built up upon by the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. There is a Smart Action Movie sense to how the plot is developped and how the suspense is built, with enough mystery in it to keep the reader or viewer entranced from start to finish.
Unfortunately, this book could be turned into a terrible movie easily if it’s put into the hands of people who don’t understand why the book is good or how the plot was suspenseful. I have the feeling that if the wrong producer, director, or actors are in the movie it will tank and down will go all of my hopes for this as the next great fantasy film.
I’d recommend this book to just about anyone fans of Sleepy Hollow or Neil Gaiman.