Hope Kelley dreams every night. Every night, she dreams in Sombre. Sombre is beyond lucid, beyond any nightmare. It can be felt, it exists. Each dream is a mission. Every nightmare is horrific and plays out to a violent end. In her waking world, Hope is a nearsighted fifteen-year-old-nobody, who spends her days as an estranged member of her own family and a ghost at her new school, Centurion High. In Sombre she is Gatherer, Halliday Knight – her complete gunslinging, head-stomping, liquor swilling, magnificent opposite. Aboard her machanihorse, Wilder, she serves Sombre, gathering Nightmarers, the world’s troubled sleepers, with her very own breed of unashamed violence, folly and charm.
An existence in Sombre can be fleeting, as everyone; Gatherer, monster, animal and miscreant alike, live with twelve strokes on their Beating Clock, a timepiece embedded in the chest. Sombre’s Mender’s monitor and regulate each citizen’s existence. Every new stroke a Mender sets on a citizen’s Beating Clock, means a stroke closer to the end of their time in the nightmare world. Hope’s sleeping world clashes with her waking world when she meets the cool and uninhibited Parker Wright, a cheerleader, a year above her at Centurion High School, a rebel in every sense of the word. Parker has been touched by Sombre as well.
An unexplained and horrific attack of a male student at Centurion involves Hope, just as a seemingly unstoppable threat comes to Sombre. The same threat invades Hope’s waking existence in Pento; signifying the beginning to a wild journey on a road of intertwining realities.
For fans of macabre fantasy, real horror and adventured filled steampunk from YA author S.B.Norton.
By day, Hope Kelley is a bespectacled, dorky, adolescent girl, but by night she enters the dream world of Sombre and becomes Halliday Knight; a kick-ass 'Gatherer' who battles the violent incumbents of this nightmare world. This Clark Kent / Superman type duality works wonderfully in S.B. Norton's spirited yet macabre story.
Just three pages in, you realise this isn't your average fantasy, as horror very much plays a (rather exciting) part in this Gaiman-esque tale. In fact, the horror goes about as far as you may be comfortable with, and just dips its toe on the other side, at times - something that makes you feel uncomfortable in a surprisingly welcoming way.
The many journeys Halliday goes on almost makes us reminisce the Fighting Fantasy books of our youth, with such gruesome details in the creatures (and their inevitable demise). You can almost imagine John Blanche's artwork being accompanied with Norton's monstrous descriptions.
"The devil-imp was a hideous cross of Neanderthal baby-human and shaven mangy street dog. Claw-like hands scratched at the dirt. A wasted, bony body and leathery, oily skin. Prowling on all fours it coughed and spat more blood."
Norton, S.B.. Sombre (p. 5). Grimprint Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Hope / Halliday is joined by a cast of incredibly likeable, diverse characters who lift off the page; both good and evil. Dave is probably our favourite - an almost foil, to Halliday.
We mentioned the Fantasy and Horror genres, but one other that fits so perfectly in this world is that of Steampunk. In fact, it's a genre that - quite literally - sits at the beating heart of Sombre. Take Halliday's Machanihorse, for example:
“A mechanical horse,” Dave pondered scratching his stubbly chin. “Does she ever breakdown? What does she eat?” “A Machanihorse, Dave,” Halliday corrected him as she stirred the balance of her drink with a straw, she nodded, “And not a lot, really. Pecks the grasses, drinks from The River occasionally. She is quite chock full of her mechanisms, you know. She needs a tweak from The Menders here and there.”
Norton, S.B.. Sombre (pp. 28-29). Grimprint Publishing. Kindle Edition.
This is most definitely a fast-paced story that will have you putting off your daily duties, just to get a little further. Rather aptly, you almost feel like Hope; trading your mundane life to pick up the book and enter a vividly more exciting one.
Without spoiling things too much, it's safe to say that a sequel is coming in 2021 and we're rather excited (if a little scared) to re-enter this wonderful world that S.B. Norton has created.
- : 9781716996702
- : Otherworldly Operatives
- : Otherworldly Operatives
- : May 2020
- : books
- : S.B.Norton
- : 13+
- : 297