Title: The Book of the Baku by R. L. Boyle
Genre: Young Adult, Dark, Horror
Rating: 5 Stars
The Book of the Baku is a debut novel and I didn’t know much about it going into it other than we are follow Sean who after moving in with his grandfather encounters the ancient entity known as the Baku and I was intrigued. The opening to The Book of the Baku was interesting as it opens with what I presume is the ending of the novel and I want to see how we get there. In the present, we are introduced to Sean who has been in care since the death of his mother, who is now being taken in by his grandad, a retired writer. Sean lost his ability to speak at the same time he entered the care system so we learn about him through his thoughts and actions rather than his words. Sean is an artist and his grandad provides materials for him, which is really thoughtful, but the most interesting thing was how Sean finds a book called The Baku in the library written by his grandad and this might be the key to understanding what the Baku is and what it wants. Sean also has a disability due to a rare genetic mutation that puts him at a disadvantage in physical situation as we saw in the opening chapter.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, Sean has become engrossed in The Baku book and he notices that his grandad doesn’t seem happy that Sean has found the book but doesn’t say anything about. Since moving Sean hasn’t contacted any of his friends who has been close with and he doesn’t seem interested in going to school or the local youth club. Sean just wants to say wrapped up in his grief and silence focusing on his artwork and tuning out the rest of the world. Despite this his grandad does encourage him to go to the youth club which he does but he spends the time hiding away from everyone else. We also learn that The Baku is rumoured to eat the nightmares of children if you write down your nightmare and put it into the mouth of The Baku. However, in the stories every time a child has used the Baku because of nightmares, rather than disappearing the nightmares have become reality and well quickly either killed the children or driven them to insanity and I don’t believe that this is appropriate reading material for a 13 year old but it makes for good reading. Sean’s grandad also tries to get him to talk about his mother but this is a subject that Sean won’t even approach yet even if he can’t speak. We has also been moving back and forth in time but it isn’t jarring like I have found in a lot of novel and I can’t wait to see where the story goes.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, Sean has been living with his grandad for a little over a week but nothing seems to be changing. He is trying to encourage Sean to make friends but he doesn’t want to opting to draw or read alone instead. He has also started some regression therapy in order for him to recover his voice but he doesn’t want to revisit the memories that caused him to lose his voice in the first place so at times it seems like it is doing more harm than good for Sean’s mental state. He also begins noticing some odd behaviours from his grandad as he enters the ominous looking shed for the first time since Sean’s arrival but these visits are used just after periods of his grandad being very forgetful or preoccupied but Sean doesn’t think anything of it. He choose to reminisce about his friends and the time they spent together even if he isn’t making any effort to see them now but he has begun to dream about the children from the book like Luca and they are so vivid. At first he thinks his grandad is playing a trick on him with the note containing Luca’s nightmare but as it burns away to ash right before Sean’s eyes he realises that all might not be as it seems within the house. The atmosphere and tension are beginning to build now and I can’t wait to see what Sean’s nightmare is or how the Baku will target him leading to the events of the first chapter.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, Sean is beginning to realise that the Baku is real and is affecting him and his grandad. Sean also puts together that the Baku may have been a good entity at one point eating the nightmares of children but over hundreds and thousands of year of it consuming darkness and fear have turned it bad. Sean believes it is now trying to purge itself of the darkness by passing on the nightmares of children to him but they aren’t ordinary nightmares as they contain memories from the children themselves as our fears are often rooted in our memories but the question is whether Sean can hold onto his sanity long enough for the Baku either to move on or to purge itself of the darkness completely and given the opening chapter I don’t think he will be able to do that. So far, The Book of the Baku is turning out to be a compelling and interesting read and I am excited to see how the tension builds in the second half of the novel and to see what the climax has in store for me.
As we cross into the second half of the novel, the nightmares of the other children are beginning to enter the real world plaguing Sean’s waking hours as well as his dreams and during this time his grandad seems to be drifting further and further away from him as he is writing a sequel to the Baku book which Sean knows isn’t a good thing considering the damage the first one has done. However, I believe Sean is right about the Baku purging itself and using his grandad is the perfect way to do it as the real life nightmares will be seen as works of fiction and lose the fear connected to them, freeing the Baku in a sense. However, Sean holds himself together but diving into his own memories of his childhood which was mostly happy and taking care of the newly abandoned hoglets as it gives him something to focus on but it doesn’t stop the creatures from finding him. None have attacked him yet until one night where one does and this is going to be the turning point as Sean will no longer be able to ignore them and he will have to find a way to deal with them and the Baku once and for all.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, Sean is haunted by more and more memories from the Baku and it seems to be getting closer to him. However, the care of the hoglets isn’t distracting him anymore as two of them have died reminding Sean of the horrors he has witnessed in his short life from the murder of a local boy, Billy to watching his mother waste away before him. Now he is witnessing his grandad be taken over little by little by the Baku and he isn’t able to do a single thing about it. We can feel the novel building towards the climax but I have no idea how the novel is going to end although we have had some clues that make the first chapter make a little more sense than it did at the beginning of the novel. Sean despite being mute and only 13 is an amazing character to follow as he is far more perspective than people give him credit for and he is more mature than his age suggests because of the things he has gone through as they change a person over time and I have a feeling his final encounter with the Baku is going to be explosive.
As we cross into the final section of the novel, Sean discovers what the Baku truly is and why it has attached itself to him. Watching everything come together and discovering the secrets that Sean has been keeping since the death of his mother and the memories that rendered him mute was heart-breaking. I felt so bad for Sean having to go through some many things at a young age but watching him come out the other side and beginning to rebuild his life was amazing. Overall, The Book of the Baku was a haunting and chilling read with a surprisingly tender message about grief and guilt and what it can do to a person over time. If you liked the Babadook then The Book of the Baku is definitely along similar lines and I would highly recommend it.
Buy it here:
Paperback/Hardcover: amazon.co.uk amazon.com
Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk amazon.com