Reviews for Ancient Appetites
Shortlisted for Waterstone’s Childrens’ Book Prize, July 2007.
Listed in the RTE Radio 1’s Eleventh Hour’s Children’s Summer Reading List (one of nine books)
Reviewed by Robert Dunbar on the 9th of July 2007 on The Eleventh Hour. 'Books For Young People’
'Combines the rich details of a 19th-century novel with science fiction... impressively imagined... a well-plotted and absorbing story.’
Niall MacMonagle, The Irish Times
'The opening sentence of this novel draw the reader into a colourful and imaginative tale that twists and turns to throw up surprises from beginning to end... Ancient Appetites is packed with bizarre incident and adventure and some humour too, bordering on the burlesque... Victorian occupations with science and Darwinian theory, post-Famine Irish politics and gender issues all impinge on a gothic mix of reality and fantasy that will doubtless leave readers anxious for further annals of the gruesome Wildenstern family.’
Books For Keeps
'Nate is an interesting character for readers to champion, and there are plenty of imaginative contraptions and detail for readers to enjoy.’
'We’re in the realm of very imaginative science fiction here... This is a hard book to sum up as there’s so much going on. But the author takes his time and really develops the plot. If you like science fiction, the supernatural and historical novels this might be just up your street. Highly recommended - particularly for older readers.’ (Gives AA five stars).
'I picked this up because I loved Oisin McGann's other books, and I wasn't disappointed. I really enjoyed this story because it was totally different to anything else I've read... There is plenty of action and a flavour of sci-fi in this sometimes grizzly story... Definitely worth a read (and try Oisin McGann's other books at the same time!).’
Waterstones Booksellers' Reviews
'I can't say much more about this book without wrecking it, and although I have no real problem with spoilers, there are some contextual twists and background elements which I'd rather leave you, the reader, to stumble over. This is too good a book for me to undermine it for you.’
'As in his previous novels, Oisín McGann has again created a unique world, this time an alternative Victorian Ireland, but fused with elements of the fantastic. In his version of the 19th century, there exist 'engimals’ (what a great word!). These rare creatures (like the word itself) are half engine, half animal.
'When Nate Wildenstern returns from hunting these beasts in wildest Africa, he discovers that his brother has been killed and the finger of blame is pointed at him. This might seem strange in a normal family but not in the Wildenstern mansion, where the Rules of Ascension allow one family member to assassinate another in the quest to become Patriarch.
'What follows is an intriguing whodunnit and action-packed tale as Nate tries to find the assassin and defeat his ancient ancestors, who have literally returned from the dead to become the new Wildenstern Patriarch. 'McGann impressively blends the futuristic engimals with Victorian Ireland as seamlessly as Philip Pullman once introduced his fantastic daemons into a very real Oxford in His Dark Materials trilogy (although I did find the explanation of the origin of the engimals a little vague.) Indeed the author recreates Victorian Ireland so evocatively that one wonders might the 'historical novel’ be an apt destination for a future outing? 'From an impressive debut The Gods And Their Machines to an even more accomplished Small-Minded Giants to this, a novel that exudes a more confident, effortless and fluid language than his previous works, Ancient Appetites illustrates a writer who is without doubt going from strength to strength. Watch this space!’
Kieran Fanning Inis Magazine
'Ancient Appetites stripes out gashes of eighteenth century history and meddles them together with a sci-fi scalpel. As Mary Shelley would see fit, machine meets organism to create formidable creatures uniquely transporting Ancient Appetites into the category of alternative-history. The compelling plot reads like a piece of true British monarchical history, the forbiddance of accession creates a laden atmosphere of consequence amongst some ingenious twists and turns. The talent of Oisin McGann’s writing becomes all too apparent when both the leading and supporting characters are as distinctive and convincing as one another.’
John Lloyd, WATERSTONE'S BATH (Gives it 4 stars out of 5)
'It's easy to suspect this bloodthirsty, unnatural family of having some sort of vampiric ancestry, particularly after the bodies of four of their ancestors are uncovered accidentally. But Ancient Appetites manages to avoid such a cliché...
'When it comes to Ireland after the Famine it would be hard to write a book that didn't mention class, and it's an important theme throughout this novel. Characters come to a growing awareness of the injustice that surrounds them and the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
'McGann may be writing for an audience of young adults, but he deals with the social issues covered by this novel without talking down to his readers. He touches on the position of women, homosexuals and coloured people without once letting up the pace or becoming preachy. Ancient Appetites is a highly entertaining story which moves from whimsical to deadly serious without skipping a beat. It's certainly an original book, brimming with inventiveness and colourful characters.
'Don't allow the curious engimals and characters like the childish and pathologically bubbly Tatiana lull you into thinking that this novel is lightweight and trivial. Scratch the surface and you will find iron at its heart. All the same, this novel is a delight to read, a maelstrom of adventure from one of the most promising new writers to emerge this decade.’
'Another epic story from this talented mind. Will appeal to readers of Andy McNabb and Chris Ryan.’
'Against a backdrop of religion against science (Darwin has just published his theory of evolution), there is also social unrest. The Fenians are unhappy with the landowners and especially with the most ruthless example; the Wildernsterns. Made desperate by famine and evictions, terrorist organisations are springing up. Even servants are joining the rebels in secret. Nate is going to find it difficult to know in whom he can trust.
'Add to this potent mix of intrigues some fantasy elements, such as bog bodies regenerating and engimals, hybrid animal-machine life forms from a previous or extra-terrestrial advanced culture, and you're in for a rip-roaring adventure...
'Ancient Appetites presents us with an alternative Victorian Ireland in the same way Philip Pullman presented us with an alternative Victorian Oxford to such great effect. While this book doesn't live up to the epic lyricism of Pullman (not a criticism? What does?), it does go further in exploring the social cost of rapid industrialisation and the concentration of wealth in just a few hands. The Potato Famine is mentioned and the Wildensterns use huge engimals to destroy the cottages of hapless tenants if they default on their rent. McGann is careful to differentiate between petty criminals and Fenians. Nate, while presented as less vicious than many of his relatives, comes across as a spoiled and thoughtless son of privilege. If there are further books in the series, I'd like to see his social conscience tested further. It would be interesting to see what choices the character makes.
'It's a pacy, bloodthirsty story, taking threads from diverse sources: a Godfather-style Mafia family fighting and infighting; social deprivation of the past; a Pullmanesque blend of history and fantasy; the age old battle between good and evil. And it's great fun. I wouldn't quite call Ancient Appetites a classic, but I'd certainly look forward to reading another book about the Wildernsterns, and my twelve-year-old devoured it in a couple of days, refusing to put it down even for his dinner.’
Jilly Murphy, Book Bag
'Let me just start by saying this book is a heart-breaker for me. An absolute heart-breaker. Why? Because it's not available in the U.S. yet.
'I got this book from the publisher and didn't think too much about it until I started reading it. I was immediately interested in the book because of the intriguing cover...
'I know there are a lot of adults who read YA fiction and I think they would love this book. I know I did.
'I don't always head to the YA section of the bookstore first. In fact, I didn't pick up Harry Potter until the books had already become a full-fledged hit. But "Ancient Appetites" seemed immediately interesting to me. Maybe it was the tagline beneath the title, A story of murder, betrayal and other family traditions...
'Appetites also has a terrific mix of historical and fantasy elements to it. The social sensibilities are definitely in keeping with Ireland of the 1800's. Women are expected to know their place, much to the chagrin of Nate's sister Tatiana and sister-in-law Daisy. But the technology has an interesting twist with the existence of "engimals;" creatures that are a literal mix of engine and animals that can be anything from a toaster to a motorcycle (or velocycles as they are referred to in the book)...
'I can honestly say I loved "Ancient Appetites" from beginning to end. McGann writes an easy to read book that still has depth and complexity...
'I don't know yet whether or not this book is headed for an American release, but I certainly hope so. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some sequels as well.’
'I'll say one thing for McGann: he does seriously kick-ass action scenes. And another thing: he's got a wildly inventive imagination.... I’m hooked.
'McGann has been getting way better with every book, and this looks like his best so far.’
'A really enjoyable story, with interesting characters, a sharp plot, and inventive fantasy elements.’
'Ancient Appetites has a wonderfully inventive and fabulously exciting storyline that manages to blend history with fantasy in way similar to Philip Pullman’s 'His Dark Materials’ trilogy. Oisin McGann is clearly a writer at the height of his powers.’
'I really liked the way this book keeps you on your toes for every last word, the mystery in it, the fun and the suspense. . . very well written and a very good book.’
Zoe Fitzpatrick, age 10, The Evening Herald
'With living machines, a murderous family, ancient secrets, and lots of adventure and suspense filling its pages, this unique book will both entertain and intrigue readers. Indeed, once one starts reading about feral motorcycles and a family of people who tolerate - and even encourage - the murder of fathers, uncles, brothers, and cousins, one is well and truly hooked. Unexpected plot twists fill the pages, and readers had better prepare themselves for plenty of murder and a singular lack of family togetherness.’
Marya Jansen-Gruber Through The Looking Glass
‘This is the kind of book that no matter you age, grabs you and doesn't let go until the end. The 18 year old hero finds himself in bad situation when he has to prove his innocence in his brother's death while trying to avoid the family business. While the story does not come out and say that the Wildenstern Family are vampires, they certainly have some traits such as long life spans and rapid healing, especially with gold. Also, the country is full of engimals, which are a cross between engines and animals. All the characters in the story are fun and very imaginative.
‘Ancient Appetites takes place in a post-famine Ireland in an alternate reality. McGann did a brilliant job making this land believable and even a bit creepy. There are several themes that set an undertone for the book including social class, race, sexuality, and women's rights. I think this book would be perfect for boys who like to read YA. There is plenty of action, mystery and cool, inventive machines.’
‘I can honestly say this book is unlike any I’ve ever read before. The plot is so bizarre and there is so much that writer Oisín McGann packs into its 440 pages that it just shouldn’t work but it so does at such break neck speed that you’ll finish reading it long before you’re ready for the story to end . . .Very funny in places and good and gory in others I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to any mature teenager who likes their books to offer more than the usual formulaic fodder out there. Oisin McGann obviously has the gift of the gab for telling a tale or two, lets just hope he gets to reach as wide an audience as he deserves.’
Fantasy Book Review