Monday, May 29, 2006

The Fetch of Mardy Watt - Charles Butler

Something is haunting Mardy Watt. It's been in her room, it's fooling her friends, and it's upsetting her home life. And the trouble is, nobody realises what is happening except Mardy herself. Exactly why the Fetch is picking on her, Mardy doesn't know – but she does know that she has to find out, before it takes over and replaces her completely. But whatever spell had been put on her is growing stronger. And suddenly, rather than fear, she feels a rush of burning anger. How dare anyone do this to her ! How dare anyone steal her life !

The Fetch of Mardy Watt is a supernatural thriller; there is a mystery relating to why the Fetch is trying to take over Mardy's life, and just who or what is Rachel Fludd. It's also a race against time - can Mardy's best friend Hal help her to reclaim her life before she is trapped forever in her horrible half-life ? And just who is the mysterious Mayor ?

Charles Butler’s language and phrasing contribute much to the suspense of his novels. In The Fetch of Mardy Watt the telling comment “[Hal] was always precise about time, and kept and spent it carefully” (p. 11) tells us a lot about the logical, rational boy who is Mardy’s best friend. Similarly, the description of the Reverberant Chord which the Mayor of Uraniborg uses to ensnare Mardy, so that she can be replaced by the Fetch is chilling: “[…] over the railings tinkled a thin, beaded string of notes, plucked from an instrument that Mardy could not name. The music crept between the railings and followed her some way down the street.” (p. 7) “Finally – finally – the many stringed instrument (a harp, was it, or a mandolin ?) began drawing its threads of sound together. The tangle arpeggios became more dense and knotted. Harmonies and discords vied dangerously, and at last a vast, enmeshed chord threw a net of closely-woven sound over her head. It billowed out and settled, dissolved at its edges and tightened at its centre, and bound her hand and foot. For a few moments she was no more alive than a wax doll.” (p. 17) As a music lover whose daily life is almost constantly accompanied by music, I personally found this description very unnerving.

Mardy recognises, during the story, that her past mistakes and “pig-headed stupidities” are, to a large extent, responsible for her remaining trapped in Uraniborg whilst the Fetch is living her life. However, she is only responsible in part; her father is also partly responsible. He was an Artemisian, one of those who lives alongside the world inhabited by Mardy and Hal, but in a world of their own, Artemisia. There they have magical powers and are able to resist the Mayor and Uraniborg, but Mardy’s father left Artemisia to marry Mardy’s mother, and his children grow up with the protection of Artemisia, and find themselves susceptible to the Mayor’s power. Mardy’s brother, Alan, has already been replaced by a Fetch, three months before Mardy is captured, and Mardy finds the real Alan in Uraniborg when she is trapped there herself. In all of Butler’s books the past actions of the protagonist come back to haunt him or her.

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