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Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Razorhurst (2015)

by Justine Larbalestier

Other authors: Hannah Janzen (Map)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I found this book to be a bit of a mixed bag for a couple of reasons.

To begin with the positive - Razorhurst paints a grim image of early 20th Century Sydney, which is a time and place that I learned little about. The novel is gritty and compelling and left me constantly on my toes, wondering which characters would survive encounters with the sinister "razor men". However, I should note that I don't consider this book to be YA. Despite the young age of the protagonists, it's full of bad language, sexual references and gore. Although I think that a lot of references would go over younger reader's heads, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under the age of fifteen.

Yet, despite the books premise, I felt that the structure had issues. The book was largely fast paced (made more so by the fact that it all takes place over one day), but I didn't really like the short vignettes between chapters. These exposited background details about various minor characters and settings, but all this did was to draw my attention from the excitement of the main event. This frustrated me no end as it made the book feel more like a collection of short stories than a complete one in its own right.

I also wasn't sold on the supernatural elements, as these felt tacked on and didn't really seem too significant in the greater scheme of things. It was almost as though two concepts had been smooshed together and thus was ineffective on both counts.

In terms of characters, I did really like Dymphna and Kelpie as both were strong in very different ways. Some of the best sections of the book were those that showed their friendship growing. However, I didn't feel the same towards any of the other characters. Perhaps it was due to the short timeframe but I couldn't get invested in Dymphna and Neal's sudden attraction (particularly as her boyfriend had died hours before), or to the rivalries between the different gang members.

So, all in all, this is a hard one to rate. While it has it's problems, I would probably recommend it to people who like to have a splash of the supernatural to their historical fiction. You could certainly do far worse. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Jan 19, 2017 |
Even though this book was quite violent and contains very mature concepts for young adults, I absolutely LOVED it and couldn't put it down! Kelpie is a homeless girl on the streets of Sydney in 1932 with an unusual gift - she can see ghosts. When one of them goads her into going into a house to steal some apples, Kelpie stumbles across the brutal murder of Jimmy who has had his throat slashed by a razor, his girlfriend and "best girl" (i.e prostitute ) Dymphna of one of the crime gang's madams Gloriana Nelson. Kelpie is unwittingly then drawn into the rivalry between Mr Davidson and Gloriana , is followed and harangued constantly by the ghost of Jimmy and unbeknownst to her is teaming up with a girl (Dymphna) who is not only the same age, but also has the same gift of seeing ghosts but chooses to keep it quiet.

This is very similar to one of the Underbelly TV series that was set in Sydney at a similar time except it is populated by ghosts which adds a great dimension. Jimmy the ghost knows who killed him and constantly badgers Kelpie with that information in the hope of revenge. The ghosts that Kelpie ( and Dymphna) can see give them information that no-one else can and they fill in the back story. The introduction of Mr Davidson's best assassin and his connection to Kelpie and her aboriginal heritage is inspired.

Razorhurst is not for the fainthearted - there is murder, abuse, swearing and misuse of women which was prevalent at the time, but it is such a great read. Highly recommended for mature readers. ( )
  nicsreads | Oct 24, 2015 |
I enjoy Larbalestier's writing, however, I could not get into this book. I found the basis of the story to be very intriguing, but ultimately the plot dragged . ( )
  MelissaLynn | May 6, 2015 |
A wonderfully evocative and creepy book that takes a look at a dangerous period in Australia's history. ( )
  dcoward | Apr 28, 2015 |
RAZORHURST by Justine Larbalestier is an absorbing chase novel from beginning to end.

Set in the gangster-filled slums of 1932 Sydney during a time of extreme poverty and violence, a young orphan stumbles upon a murder involving organized crime. This bloody discovery sets off a non-stop thrill-ride filled with fascinating characters. From the ghosts she’s been able to see since birth to the wide array of criminals put in her path, Kelpie doesn’t know who to trust and who to follow.

What makes this young adult historical suspense particularly intriguing is the way it weaves in ghosts as a fantasy element. Many young adults find the idea of ghosts alluring. While most novels use ghosts as a one-dimensional plot element, Larbalestier has built a complex ghost world complete with rules that guide their existence.

Readers will find the glossary at the end of the book useful in explaining some of the lesser-known vocabulary. Although some readers may find the use of archaic terms distracting, most lovers of history and fantasy will find that the rich vocabulary brings the world alive for readers.

From history and fantasy fans to those that enjoy a heart-pounding suspense-thriller, librarians will easily identify readers for this well-written young adult novel.

This book was influenced by the real-life gangs of the twenties and thirties in Sydney. To learn more about what sparked the author’s interest, go to http://justinelarbalestier.com/books/razorhurst/influences/.

To learn more about the author and the book, go to http://justinelarbalestier.com/. ( )
  eduscapes | Mar 18, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Justine Larbalestierprimary authorall editionscalculated
Janzen, HannahMapsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agro, JanineDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yuen, SammyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Ruth Park and Kylie Tennant, who lived in and wrote about Surry Hills decades before me, without whom this book would not exist.
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