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"The Armour of Light," Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The Armour Of Light Andrew Webb Poster

Written by Andrew Webb
2012, 172 pages, Fiction
Released on March 31st, 2016

Review:

The Armour of Light was first released in the UK in 2012 and the Amazon listing has a particularly dumb blurb, revealing which of the main characters are killed. Another obvious mistake spells “paranormal” as “paranoramal” and watch out for the cover, featuring a cute young woman which has absolutely zero to do with the book. Thankfully later editions, including the USA version, have improved the blurb, which no longer reveals who dies. The sexy young woman is also replaced by graphics more in tune with the story.

Andrew Webb tells us in his end notes that The Armour of Light is based upon true events experienced by himself after buying a house which was haunted. He reveals his purchase was built upon a garage which in the 1960s was used for satanic rituals, animal sacrifices, and experiments with Ouija boards. The story is set in the outskirts of South London, in a quiet residential area on the Surrey-Hampshire border. This is not the most likely setting for a ghost story, but I was intrigued to hear of a supernatural tale set in an English bungalow instead of a windswept castle or a rural creaking American mansion.

The Armour of Light turned out to be a major disappointment and I found little to recommend in in this poorly written novel. Steve Harrison, his wife Natalie and her son Alex have just moved into their new home and immediately Natalie senses there is something wrong with the bungalow. “There is a very strange atmosphere in that place,” she says in the opening pages. There is no build-up, development of atmosphere, proper introduction of the characters or descriptions of the house. This all happens almost immediately and any early tension or sense of foreboding is dampened before the reader gets any sense of time and place.

Is The Armour of Light fiction, non-fiction or a blurring fictional account of the two? It is not able to make up its mind and repeatedly has sentences which are plot spoilers or give the implication it is non-fiction. For example, here the author drops a huge spoiler in the opening section: “Alex’s very naïve tender age didn’t give any indication as to what had happened on this plot of land some twenty years before. His young unsuspecting mind, like his stepfather, Steve, would accidently stumble across a new home that would unfold a sinister mystery beyond their family’s control.” This is not the literary devise known as ‘foreshadowing’; instead the author simply reveals to the reader what is going to happen.

Ghosts and demons randomly appear, the characters are not particularly phased, and an exorcist is eventually called. None of this grabs the attention, and little about these supernatural occurrences are believable, frightening or vaguely unsettling. Andrew Webb fails on every level to convince the reader that this is true and because of this, the book suffers an identity crisis. There are plenty of great books on ‘true’ hauntings, or those ‘inspired’ by true events and this lacks the authenticity these books have. If it is based on fact, then a few appendixes could have been useful to clarify some of the specifics of the hauntings, the most famous example point of reference being Jay Aston’s The Amityville Horror.

Early in the book Steve plays a video about Nazis and the SS and we’re told: “Unbeknown to Steve, he was also attracting a power beyond his control. By persistently playing this occult video he was sending strong invitation messages to the spirit world that scarred the ground that his home was built on.” According to Andrew Webb, the spirit world is attracted to dark paraphernalia, such as Nazi memorabilia, un-Christian decorations or dark videos. There is nothing wrong with implying that stuff involving Hitler etc. can attract demons or supernatural entities, but the writing needs to convince me that this is the case and this does not, either as fiction or non-fiction.

The blurb on the most recent edition notes that the author was “…inspired to write a fictional account of his experiences to allow others to read and learn about the dangers and impact spirits can have on a person’s life.” Here lies the problem, even though the book is not particularly preachy in a religious sense, I was expecting to be entertained by a ghost story set in a suburban British environment. Instead we have a rambling, disjointed and dull yarn with characters that are completely one dimensional.

Setting a ghost story in a small unassuming British house is not particularly common, nor is it easy, but it is possible. But if you want the crap scared out of you, check out Rae Louise’s debut The Fear, which has some similarities to The Armour of Light.  In this cracker, things also start going bump in the night quickly and it is very convincing. Before long characters are being disturbed, start wetting the bed or are sexually targeted by the entity before things really spiral out of control. The Fear is an outstanding suburban British horror novel and kicks the boxes required for a suburban ghost story which The Armour of Light fails to do.

I would avoid The Armour of Light, and if you’re interested in reading a good ghost story then check out my Top 10 of 2018, which has excellent supernatural novels from the likes of Jonathan Maberry, Graham Masterton, John Hunt and David Peak.

Grades:

Overall: Zerostars The Armour Of Light Andrew Webb Cover
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About The Author
Tony Staff
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Writer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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