Book Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

Author: Mark Lawrence

Title: One Word Kill

Publisher: 47 North

Date: 2019

Plot: In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

Book review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

I jumped at the chance to read One Word Kill – you know by my previous reviews that I love Mark Lawrence’s writing. This one is a little different; while set a few decades in the past, it’s set in this world, rather than a far-off fantasy one.

Don’t expect normality though: time-travel, and the complications of time-travel (watch out for those butterflies!) is enough to make your head spin. At least… it is complicated – it’s supposed to be. But it’s described in such a way that as the characters are figuring out the implications of what is happening, you too get to grips with time-lines, multiple universes and the repercussions of travelling in time.

It’s not all science-fiction though. The plot follows Nick, a fifteen-year-old just diagnosed with cancer. I won’t go into specifics but it touches a cord with what he’s going through.

Nick is a great character: he’s not tough or strong in the ways that matter to teenage boys. But he never wallows in self-pity, adamant nothing – not even cancer – is going to stop him from having a good time with his friends. You could really connect with Nick, empathising over some of the tough choices he has to make (far beyond what a boy his age should be worrying about) and cheering him when it’s his turn to get the girl.

Afterwards it had become a monster that stalked behind me, and I walked on through my days steadfastly refusing to look its way in case it pounced. Turns out it didn’t matter if I looked or not. I got pounced on anyway.

Nick’s friends are a diverse mix, from the privileged to the withdrawn. They are an eclectic mix that works as they bumble their work through adolescent and get caught up in something far more serious than they could possibly imagine. They’re really supportive of Nick in their own way and you can see the true bonds of friendship throughout.

Eva, a fellow cancer patient, shows Nick’s progression, although her time in the book is limited. Eva acts as a grounding point for Nick – he learns some valuable lessons from her, about himself if nothing else. I wanted more of Eva.

This is a fairly short book (especially by Mark Lawrence’s standards!) and events take place over a relatively short period of time. The pacing is perfect though; there are quieter moments as Nick starts to fall in love for the first time, but there is also this underlying sense of tension that dictates their actions. Despite finding out time-travel is possible, the friends are on a tight deadline: failing isn’t an option when there are lives on the line.

There is a lot packed into 194 pages though. Growing relationships, character development, life-threatening illnesses and time-travel itself. If time-travel has taught me one thing, it’s that spoilers can cause a shift of fate, so I’m being careful not to give anything away.

One Word Kill is science-fiction more than fantasy if relating to other books by the author. But it packs a powerful punch and I didn’t want to put it down. Despite the science-fiction elements, it was the cancer parts that stuck with me the most. Short, but thought-provoking. Thoroughly enjoyed it – as usual!

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A Rambling Reviewer

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13 thoughts on “Book Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

  1. Sounds like an interesting one. Your description of Nick kinda reminds me of a kid I went to school with, not a close friend, but one of those people you grow up around and then suddenly they’re gone… y’know? Anyway, he was always kinda whiny as little kid… but when he got cancer as a teenager he just took it in his stride. We never heard him complain once, and he seemed to really make the most of those last few years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I understand completely. Some people really have an inner strength you only get to see shine at the worst times. It could be a tricky read for those that cancer has touched on, especially if teens are involved, as it was definitely those bits that I felt the most.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh!! This book sounds SOO good! I’ve heard a bit about Mark Laurence but haven’t read any of his books…I think that might have to change this week! Thank you so much for this review!

    Daisy xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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