Thirteen-year old Jamie lives with his stepfather after a car crash killed his mother. Escaping to an abandoned house he meets a homeless man who tells him of a dark curse. Not wanting to return home, Jamie flees with the man, determined to find a cure for the curse.

The Dark Inside is basically a modern fairy tale. It has all the ingredients; a “wicked” stepfather, a curse, a witch and a journey ending in a moral lesson. It felt, in parts, like a rather grim, more realistic version of Stardust, I think maybe it was the travellers that did it. It’s firmly set in our world, with only a dash of supernatural.

One aspect of it was the question of whether the curse was real or not. However I think the ambiguity was lost with the wooden boy, who didn’t serve much purpose apart from being creepy. Without him, the old traveller woman could have just been using herbs and not magic. Maybe Webster was just suffering from PTSD. I would have liked to have been left with that unanswered.

I didn’t really connect with the characters. In a way that’s more acceptable in a shorter fairy tale, it’s kind of their hallmark, but this novel was a tad too long to not be bothered what happens to them, good or bad. I will admit, I think I’m outside the age bracket; it feels much more middle grade despite some dark themes and acts of violence. I think it will appeal to the younger reader who doesn’t want to be patronised.

There are some wonderful pieces of writing within and I’m sure it will be a well-received debut but it just didn’t click with me. If you think it’d more your thing, I’m giving away a spare copy (UK only), just use the Rafflecopter at the end of this post to enter.

The Dark Inside is published by Simon & Schuster and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 30th January 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Book Angel Booktopia

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

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