Colin is a shy, awkward and lonely teenager living somewhere along the Californian coast. He’s the target for school bullies, and suffers from a relatively severe stutter. His father died several years ago, and now his mother has received a Stage Four Cancer diagnosis. His life is, simply, falling apart. On the night his mother tells him her dire news, Colin runs into some trouble. In a slight fit of rage, he throws a pebble blindly into some fog, and is astonished when he hears the sound of breaking glass. Before he really knows what’s happening, he’s sitting in a quaint old shop, being served Earl Grey tea. As he tries to leave, the shop’s proprietor demands Colin’s name in recompense for breaking his window, and bestows him with a strange puzzle box…
As soon as I started reading The Soothsayer I was gripped. It reminded me, strangely, of my favourite novel of all time; The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The parallels were there: A young, lonely man needing to save his dying mother by travelling to a fantastical world in search of a mystical item. A dark, menacing presence is taking over the fantastical world (and by exchange, our world), and only the boy can save it. There are more, similarities, but it won’t do to highlight them all here – it’s for you to read it and see. Of course, there are also some differences, notably, the wry and wonderful humour that is woven into Gabel’s writing. It’s not as gritty and raw as The Talisman, but that is not a bad thing.
Gabel’s writing is wonderfully fluent, vibrant and manages to give the reader a strangely warm, fuzzy feeling as they read. His characters are varied; ranging in dimensions and motives. There are those who you’d want to give a wide berth on a narrow street and then those who you’d be happy to share a pint with down in your local pub.
In all, The Soothsayer is a phenomenal full debut novel. And, I can only hope that Gabel will treat us to more from this wonderful world.
First published on Reedsy Discovery as part of their ARC program. You can read the original review here.
Get The Soothsayer on Amazon. It’s also available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited.