The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones

the-disciple

Rating: ★★★★☆

Driving home through Snowdonia National Park late one night, Edward Schwinn comes across a motoring accident.  Inspecting the damage, he finds that there is a single survivor – a heavily pregnant woman called Gráinne.  Despite his misgivings – there are many aspects of the situation which don’t seem quite right – he feels compelled to help the woman.  In doing so, he becomes caught between two cult-like factions who are fighting a war that he doesn’t understand.

Helping her to give birth, Eddie is then left to protect the child – Piper – on his own when Gráinne is murdered.  Devoting himself to the girl, he raises her as best he can, although the two have to keep moving in order to stay safe.  Because Piper is no ordinary child, and has the power to change the world – something that those who sought Gráinne’s death will stop at nothing to prevent.

I’ve been quite vague in my synopsis of The Disciple, as this really is a novel that is best approached with as little prior knowledge as possible.  The reader is thrown into events with almost no context, and whilst this can sometimes be a little frustrating, with The Disciple I had to keep reading to find out what was going on.  And it does become clearer as the novel progresses, as Piper grows up and begins to understand the role that she has to play.  And it wasn’t at all what I expected.  I won’t spoil it, but the background, the reasons for these two cults (for want of a better term) going head to head is extremely clever and original.

I think that my favourite aspect of the novel is that it’s not clear whether Piper is one of the good guys or not.  The reader is given insight into both sides, and it’s clear that they both believe that they are acting in the best interests of the world and humanity.  I loved this ambiguity, and the thought that I might be cheering on the bad guys!

The Disciple wasn’t at all what I expected – but in a good way.  I was expecting a horror novel, and whilst there are elements of the supernatural, it’s also partly a thriller and a science fiction novel.  And whilst such a mishmash can sometimes result in a disjointed read, The Disciple brought all of these elements together seamlessly.  The pace varies quite a lot, and there are peaks and troughs of action.  At no point is it dull, however.  The author has written an incredibly suspenseful novel, and there is always an impending sense of doom hanging over Eddie and Piper’s heads, even when they seem relatively safe.

The Disciple is intriguing, brilliant and original, and I’ll be looking up Stephen Lloyd Jones’s first two novels – The String Diaries and Written in the Blood – on the strength of it.

The Disciple was published in eBook and paperback on 6 October.  Many thanks to Katie Bradburn and Katie Brown for providing a copy for review, via Bookbridgr.

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