One of Conjuror’s main strengths was its characters. The MC (called Rémy) is a black teenage boy who discovers he is a descendant of a ‘Conjuror’- someone who can alter reality with music. I must admit when I first picked up the book I thought Rémy was going to be as cliched as cliched could get. The authors proved me wrong. Rémy was three-dimensional, very relatable and (most importantly) his black status didn’t feel like it was just included to tick the ‘diverse characters box’.
Another notable mention is Caravaggio, who may have only been a side character but that didn’t stop the authors from developing him. He was like the Magnus Bane of the Barrowmans’ world, with a hint of an homage to John’s humorous and crazy role of ‘Captain Jack’ from Doctor who. The other subtle references to the TV series like ‘wibbly wobbly time’ were also much appreciated by me.
Similarly to Doctor Who, I also loved how well researched Conjuror felt in terms of history, especially the slave trade. The setting and voice dramatically changed throughout the different periods of time, which contributed to a better image being created of the different events and also added to this overall knowledgeable voice of the book. Despite the fact it was fantasy, the Barrowmans tried very hard to make it as realistic as possible, which is something I quite enjoyed.
As well as this, dialect is not something all authors get right. The Barrowman Sibling’s sparse use of dialect was just enough to create the historical or modern context when needed and little enough to not get annoying- unlike David Almond’s excessive use of ‘mebbe’.
Conjuror had its bad sides. At the start, I couldn’t find any pieces of the puzzle of a plot that fit. Nothing made much sense and I was left with this overwhelming feeling that I must have missed something. It wasn’t my fault and I understand that now; the structure was meant to be like this to aid the plot. But John and Carole Barrowman could have made this clearer. They relied too much on the assumption that we, the reader, had nothing better to do but trawl through their jigsaw puzzle. There were random chapter pov changes, sudden time traveling and some awful pacing. I know some people would have left the novel as soon as it was apparent nothing made much sense a quarter way through.
But perhaps this flaw was the fault of another pair of very important characters: the Orion twins. Emma and Matt had the cutest relationship in the book, with a fair bit of hate (and love) on each part. They are also within another book called Hollow Earth. Them being in Conjuror after having featured elsewhere, meant that to someone who hasn’t read the book they are in, their story gets confusing. It often feels as though the authors are relying on the reader to have previously read Hollow Earth and so they didn’t have to explain things involving Emma and Matt as well as they could and should have. This topped with the fact that they play a huge part in the second half of the novel, contributes to Conjuror’s fault in structure and desire to confuse the reader
Conjuror by John and Carole E. Barrowman may have had its faultsbut overall this was overshadowed by the fact that by the end it was an enjoyable read. As long as you don’t mind waiting to understand the story, I would recommend the novel to any young adults and adults in search of a fantasy (with art and music influences).