REVIEW: Brenda and Effie Forever! (Paul Magrs)

BrendaEffieForeverThe sixth and final Brenda and Effie book! The closing of one of my absolute favourite series of books. All the way from a library book I discovered by chance because of Whitby Abbey on the cover, I’ve followed the adventures of Brenda, the Bride of Frankenstein retired to run a cosy B&B in Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, and her disparate band of friends and adventurers–Effie the descendant of witches, Robert the gay elf, Penny the goth and Gila the lizard boy–as they investigate the spooky supernatural goings on around town. All in all the series is really hard to describe; a kind of cosy gothic, that I believe was described somewhere as chintzpunk. The sort of world where the characters break off from saving the world from ravening hordes of vampires to have a cup of tea and a good chinwag.

Never The Bride, the first novel, was entirely episodic, and ever since then I’ve slightly missed that structure, preferring it to the follow-ups which mixed all the adventures together. Not in Brenda and Effie Forever! though–here it works perfectly; the whole book never pauses for breath, jumping from one entertaining mystery to another, as if the book was written by throwing all the ideas into a cauldron and seeing exactly what broth was made. Abba-singing mermaids in the toilets of the Christmas Hotel, the vengeful ghosts of the Bronte sisters, a talking Panda (or for anyone who’s followed Paul Magrs’ Iris Wildthyme series, I suppose that should be the talking Panda), Mr Danby’s magic act, the ghostly Limbosine abducting residents to show them their past, the Phantom of the Opera shacked up with the Hunchback of Notre-Dame and a village cult. The sheer lunacy of the plots has always been a strong point of the series, but they outshine themselves in their final last hurrah.

There’s a lot of tied up loose ends, returning characters fleeting by to take a final place in the story–we get an ending for Mrs Claus, and the Erl King, and Frank. However, that’s the only problem I have with the book–it’s first and foremost Brenda based, with some time off in Effie’s mind, exploring her past. The rest of the characters don’t get a look in, and its a real shame, because I’ve always loved the team spirit of them all. Robert, Gila and Penny might as well not exist in the story, apart from their brief eight pages off in the land of Faerie, and I really missed them. I remember the same thing from The Bride That Time Forgot, and I suppose it’s a problem of always telling the story from the point of view of Brenda, when really I’d quite like to spend my time in the company of the other characters sometimes. That said, the investigating adventures of Robert and Penny would make great stories. Or, indeed, the adventures of the Phantom and the Hunchback, who seem like a huge missed opportunity.

And of course, this is a final book, so it should have an ending that properly befits a finale–and it does, with some real emotional heft. To say more would be to reveal and spoil, so I shall leave it at that. Of all five books, by far my favourite with possible except only of Never The Bride, and I look forward to the further prequel adventures of Brenda and Effie I hear tell of!

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