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Friday 3 September 2010

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver [Review]

Written by: Michelle Paver.
Published by: Orion Books.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 21st October 2010.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "'What is it? What does it want? Why is it angry with me?' January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken. But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return - when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark."

I’ve been a fan of Michelle Paver since Wolf Brother, the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, was published back in 2004. Last year, the sixth and final book, Ghost Hunter, was published and was a stunning conclusion to the series. And now Michelle Paver proves that she has a lot left to offer.

Dark Matter is a stunning, albeit terrifying, ghost story that grips you right from the start. It’s not a case of you not being able to put the book down. It’s more a case of the book not being able to put you down! Written with consummate skill, and incredibly addictive, this is easily one of the best (if not the best) books I have read this year, so far.

Jack is a fantastic character. From the start of the book (written in first person), you feel a strong connection to Jack - possibly because everything you are seeing is through his eyes. He's a troubled character - the main reason he decides to go on the expedition is to escape his life, the mess that he feels he's living in. In a way, Dark Matter is all about Jack finding out who he is, why he feels so alone.

The tone of the book is perfect and plays on the fear of the dark. The setting, in the higher arctic circle, is perfect and only adds to the tension. Michelle paints this landscape perfectly (if you need further proof of her skill in this field, check out the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Soul Eater and Ghost Hunter in particular). In a place where darkness lasts for months, and after several unforseen events, Jack is completely alone. At the mercy of the ‘untoward’ forces that tread the snow there.

The revelations are paced brilliantly – a trait of Michelle’s work. Just when you think things are on the turn, for the better, something terrible happens and you are thrust back into fear. Not a single moment is predictable. You’ll be left gasping for breath, shivering with fear.

The only warmth in the book, comes in the form of eight huskies. I fell in love with these dogs just as Jack did. In a place where everything is so cold, they create a brilliant contrast and are used in a genius way. Comforting you, before something chilling happens, strengthening your reaction.

Primarily, it is an adult book, but anyone above the age or 14 should devour this book with no problem at all. Michelle fans will no doubt want to read this, and will not be disappointed.

Dark Matter is a true ghost story. It will chill, terrify, and haunt you, while still leaving you feeling satisfied. I cannot praise this book enough. Perfectly written. Make sure you read it in broad daylight, preferably on a clear and calm day. I finished it when it was cold, raining and windy. The weather didn't help with my fear! The book will definitely leave an impact on the reader, that will only make you want to read it again, and again, and again. I do!

Thank you to Helen Richardson at Orion for sending me the copy. An incredibly happy reader right here. Other ghost stories, take note!


  1. Michelle Paver? Terrifying ghost story? I really didn't need any more convincing than that, but your review was fab. Thanks.

  2. As you know, I am a Michelle Paver fan. I also happen to be a wimp and totally afraid of ghosts. I know I am going to be missing out by not reading this but I trust you when you say it is brilliant.

  3. Great review, Ryan! Although of course, since I may just be a scaredy cat, I might pass on this... :D

  4. I loved The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series (I have them all).
    THis review has convinced me that I really need this book even if it terrifies me :D

  5. Thanks for this review, Ryan (and for leaving a comment at my blog). It's certainly left me in a fever of anticipation about the audiobook version, performed by Jeremy Northam!
    I hope you don't mind that I have linked to your review from the blog.
    Best, Gill