Ancient Appetites is a stand-alone young adult fantasy from Irish author Oison McGann. It is a completely bonkers adventure that defies logic in favor of fast-paced storytelling. It is also, as my grandmother would say, an 'absolute hoot'.
The setting, for no apparent reason, is a quasi-Victorian Ireland in which feral machines roam the wilderness and the aristocratic class is composed of semi-vampiric immortals. McGann doesn't bother with detailed world-building - bits just... appear... to support the story. It is well-done and consistently fun.
When we heard McGann speak at Sci-Fi London, he told the crowd that he loved writing for young adults because 'the story is everything'. In Ancient Appetites, this comes through loud and clear. McGann packs his book with action - motorcycle chases, explosions and swordfights - from start to finish.
The side effect is that the world, as creative as it is, goes sadly undeveloped, as do most of the characters. Everyone and everything was in service to the all-powerful plot. This would have been painful had the story been less riveting. As it was, Ancient Appetites is the sort of breathless adventure that relies on a frantic pace to maintain the suspension of disbelief.
Ancient Appetites is a good yarn, full of surprisingly empathetic characters and well-integrated progressive adult themes. I'd give this to a precocious young adult reader in a heartbeat (or an adult reader that just likes a good read...)
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