Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence’s teenage time-travel fantasy has all the elements to make an easy comparison with Stranger Things: a group of Dungeons & Dragons playing friends in the 1980s encounter some actual weird stuff and must solve a deep mystery while coping with a host of real-life problems.

The comparison obscures the novels distinct charm and personality. Set in an not always convincing 1980’s London, the novel is focused on a single character Nick Hayes — a mathematical prodigy struggling with chemotherapy for a potentially terminal case of leukaemia. The more fantastical events that intrude into his life drive the plot but the bulk of the story deals with the interplay between Nick, his friends and the more mundane threat of two bullies aspiring to be brutal criminals.

Deftly written, the story carries some real emotional punches but few surprises. The supernatural/science-fictional element has its own twists but not ones that are terribly surprising. However, the story plays out deftly and what it lacks in the unexpected it makes up for in engaging characters and atmosphere.

Apparently this is part one of a series (Impossible Times #1) but the story works as a stand alone novel. Very enjoyable.

10 thoughts on “Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

  1. “viscous criminals”? Yea gods, that calls some really icky (or is it sticky?) images to mind. Like something out of the Wild Cards universe.


  2. So would this be sutable as a Lodestar nominee? My first thought was that, with a teenage protagonist, it should be, but I noticed it was on the Goodreads longlist as Science Fiction, not as YA.

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  3. Ah, good point. Though if the story is self-contained one might think this one could be treated as YA anyway.

    (You see, I knew that the ‘protagonist’s age’ criterion would cause trouble: it obviously isn’t going to combine well with series where people’s age changes. ‘So, Ms Rowling, you say your hero is eleven in the first book and seventeen in the last? That will never do. You have to decide whether it’s a children’s series or a young adult series, you know.’)


    1. I guess ‘YA’ itself exists because of the ambiguity between adult & children’s literature but actually only creates two further ambiguities. As the book has features of both children and adult literature, it’s safe to call it YA


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