3 out of 4 stars
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It’s no shock that I loved yet another book by Oliver Phipps, this time it’s Spyder Bones.
Summer 1969: at the height of the Vietnam war, Aaron Prescott (known to his comrades as ‘Spyder’) has already served one tour of duty as a regular cavalryman; this time, he has returned for a second tour as a combat medic. After falling from a rescue helicopter in the middle of battle – a feat which should have killed him - he suffers months in a coma.
After suffering this near-death experience, Aaron must decide whether the things he saw during his blackout were real, or whether it was all just a fever-dream? Is there a mystical and spiritual war all around us?
This book was very surprising. From the blurb I scanned before reading, I had no idea it Mr. Phipps would divulge into a wonderful and wacky world of the unknown. Lycanthropes, vampires and alchemists; he manages to balance every new monster fantastically, they jump off the page. This hidden spiritual war managed to brilliantly jump off the pages and left me wanting much more!
After recently reading one of his other novellas, I had high expectations of this author; ones which he managed to meet. The majority of the characters in this book - particularly Aaron - were well-rounded and developed despite entering into his story in his late twenties. A driven and focused person, Aaron manages to fight for the greater good whilst balancing his everyday life.
My only complaint is the ending of the novella. I was disappointed that two characters - that are very important to Aaron's life - Camilla and Victoria are relatively underdeveloped. Camilla's appearance in Aaron's story is sudden and somewhat unexplained, she just appears at the perfect time when everything appears to have settled down; this seemed quite jumpy.
I was also disappointed with how Sonya (Sunny) was written out when she was no longer needed; she seemed to only be used to progress Aaron's story further, rather than to enable actual development. It's upsetting to see this as Phipps' has previously managed to write strong, independent and sassy female characters.
Despite it being a novella, the story is well-paced, captivating and intriguing throughout. Therefore, for the reasons above, I believe that 3 out of 4 stars is justified. With some small tweaks to the female characters in this story, I feel it could be an exceptional plot.
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