“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” So begins this novel about an ordinary boy in an extraordinary situation. When the sinister man Jack murders the boy’s family and comes after him, he manages to escape to the local graveyard and evade Jack for the time being. He is taken in by the ghostly inhabitants of the graveyard, who give him the name Nobody Owens. Bod grows up in the graveyard with certain abilities (such as Fading and Haunting) but certain limitations (such as not interacting with living people). He loves his family in the graveyard but is also curious about the outside world. The older Bod gets, the more he is drawn to the world of the living; but the man Jack is still looking for him, and he must confront many dangers before he can truly begin to live his life.
This book is a wonderfully atmospheric tale, perfect for a chilly autumn evening. Gaiman’s descriptions are evocative and often spooky, from the menace of Jack and his associates to the slavering ghouls to the ancient power of the Sleer. Bod is a grave (pun intended) but likable child, and his adventures both in and out of the graveyard make for entertaining reading. I also loved Silas, Bod’s guardian, and I would have liked to know more about him. The ending is sad in some ways, but it feels absolutely right for the story. My only complaint is that this book is less substantial than Gaiman’s work for adults (Neverwhere is still my favorite), but I definitely enjoyed it nonetheless.