January 24, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Hob, an orphan, a “half-grown boy,” has been adopted by a travelling healer-musician named Molly. With her granddaughter Nemain and a strongman named Jack, they are travelling through harsh winter weather in wagons pulled by an ox and an ass and a mare.
On the second page of Douglas Nicholas’s Something Red, Hob begins to feel “an unease of spirit, an oppression.” And then he sees it. “His eye was locked to the curtain of trees, and now he saw a flicker, a glint, of russet color: red as a fox, but tall, tall, high as a man perhaps, but hard to judge, hard to tell from here, then gone as though it never was.” Hob and the others learn later that a mutilated corpse was found near this site.
Half-grown boy can be translated as boy about to reach puberty, and this is a coming-of-age novel. It is also an historical novel, full of information (Is it true that in chess games of this period, bishops couldn’t be moved more that three spaces?), and an account of a snowstorm in which none of us wants to be caught.
It’s a monster story, too, and Mr. Nicholas has done well with the monster part. A few days after finishing the novel, thinking back on the monster’s arrangement–or life style, or whatever I can call it without giving too much away–brings me deep satisfaction.