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Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic by Joseph D’Lacey & Jeremy Drysdale

For as long as anyone can remember, the Clowns and Humans of Blueville have co-existed peacefully. Sure, each species thinks the other is a little weird but that’s never been something to fight about.

Until, that is, a series of freakish terrorist attacks – seemingly perpetrated by clowns – turn the two bloodlines against each other. When war breaks out, the future of both species hangs in the balance. It’s going to take a suicide mission to stop the carnage and only misfit circus trainee Colin Clarke and his three best friends have the courage to volunteer for this impossible task.

Their quest takes them to the mean streets of Cheadle, the most dangerous city in the world. There, in a final bid to defeat their true enemy, they must confront the darkness lurking at the very heart of clownkind.

Odds bodkins, but Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is an extraordinarily bonkers book. Part comedy, part horror and more than a little urban fantasy, this a new collaboration from Jeremy Drysdale and Joseph D’Lacey. So sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for a carnival of curiosities, a plethora of puns and a jolly good story to boot.

Colin Clarke is a teenage clown still finding his way in the grand old traditions of tom-foolery. When his people are attacked, he steps up (not easy in a pair of oversized shoes) to help protect everything he holds dear. Much of his journey is about understanding the necessity for clowns existence, and how he fits in with the rest of the world.

Colin’s arch-nemesis is Aspic, a gloriously Machiavellian villain. Propelled by a furious rage, he will stop at nothing to destroy all clowns. Every damn one! The more you learn about his character, the more you realise just how mind-bogglingly angry he is. I’ve been pondering and I’m going to describe his actions as barely controlled seething. He seethes on every page. Fluster, Grout and Stretch are Aspic’s less than perfect minions. They are as nasty and loathsome a trio as you would ever wish to meet. Obviously, I warmed to their antics immediately. Much of the novel’s insanity can in fact be traced directly back to these three. They revel in chaos and the streets of Blueville are far more dangerous when they are around. A good (or should that be bad?) villain is, always such fun. In Blood and Apsic we’re spoiled for choice, all the villains are deliciously evil. I was particularly fond of how these characters talk to one another.

“I hate the smell of Clowns in the afternoon,” he said. “Smells like… levity.”

Based on evidence of gems like this alone, if book two isn’t called Clown Wars 2: Apocalypse Clown I will be hugely disappointed. I mean, I’m not going to threaten to shove a sausage up my bottom and run naked through the streets of London*, but you get the general gist.

You wouldn’t think it, but clowns are quite the contentious subject in our household. I told my other half I was writing a book review that featured said face-painted mirth makers heavily, and her first response was a categorical “Clowns aren’t funny, they’re creepy”. The authors are actually a couple of sneaky sods. They know that this is a common reaction. Underneath all the nonsense, flim-flam and silliness, there are some really interesting ideas lurking about. The narrative dances around the premise that clowns can be both a source of entertainment and fun, as well as the stuff of nightmares. Seems to me that these two opposing descriptions are on the opposite sides of the same coin. This certainly makes for fertile ground when it comes to great storytelling.

Don’t misunderstand me however, there is still plenty of nonsense on display as well. My personal favourite is the anti-Clown mine. The thought that clowns can be blown apart by tiny shards of sadness seems entirely apt. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. I’m impressed that such a simple idea managed to make me both happy and sad in the same breath. All the world building that Joseph D’Lacey and Jeremy Drysdale have thought up helps to add an additional layer of depth to the story. Everything from the different types of clowns to the rules of their society and even their fondness of tea and ham sandwiches has been considered meticulously.

How can I best describe Blood and Aspic to you in a way that makes anything close to sense? Hmmm, think Harry Potter on laughing gas with a slightly darker tone and a large red nose, and you’re probably about a tenth of the way there. In all honesty, it is likely that this book is going to split readers down the middle (not literally, that would be messy and would take ages to clean up). No, I mean opinion will be divided. Those that love it will love it. Those that loathe it will loathe it. The first book in the Clown Wars series is most definitely literary marmite. Personally, I’m a sucker for a bit of weird, wonderful and darkly wacky. I loved it.

If you like clowns, you should definitely read this book. If you don’t like clowns, you should probably read this book as well. Drysdale and D’Lacey, which sounds like a gentleman’s outfitters now that I think about it, are on top form and the resulting novel is great fun.

Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is published by the authors and is available now. Highly recommended.

*Oh yeah, I can shoehorn political commentary into a review about clowns. I consider it a personal challenge

Clown Wars: Blood & Aspic

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