Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews the second novel by Nick Harkaway, Angelmaker.

“Angelmaker is certainly the weirdest thing that I’ve read in 2012. It also happens to be one of the best, too.” ~The Founding Fields

Angelmaker was my second read on the Kindle Fire following Red Country by Joe Abercrombie and I really do enjoy using the e-reader. Not only can I take my books around with me wherever I go (making it easier if I want to show a particularly good novel to a friend), but it also allows me to exchange between one physical copy and an Ebook as well.  But before I get sidetracked, I’m going to divert my attention back to Angelmaker. It’s probably one of the funnest novels I’ve read in 2012 (along with Adam Christopher’s Seven Wonders), but I think it outranks anything as the weirdest. I can tell that the author must have had a lot of fun writing this book as I certainly did have a lot of fun reading it, as Harkaway manages to make the novel captivating and enthralling enough and even though it is a standalone, it makes me want to stick around for more by this author.

From the author of the international best seller The Gone-Away World—a new riveting action spy thriller, blistering gangster noir, and howling absurdist comedy: a propulsively entertaining tale about a mobster’s son and a retired secret agent who team up to save the world.
Joe Spork repairs clocks, a far cry from his late father, a flashy London gangster. But when Joe fixes one particularly unusual device, his life is suddenly upended. Joe’s client, Edie Banister, is more than just a kindly old lady – —she’s a former superspy. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine. And having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator, Edie’s old arch-nemesis. With Joe’s once-quiet world now populated with mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses, girls in pink leather, and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realizes that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she gave up years ago, and pick up his father’s old gun…

Whilst this novel at first seemed like a steampunk book to me, which I thought would be great when I picked it up as I needed to get into more of the genre, it’s actually more of a noir/comedy thriller. Actually, it’s just plain weird. Take Edie Banister, for instance – the female protagonist of the novel, she’s an old lady who also happens to be a former superspy. Joe Spork himself is as interesting character, a clockmaker, and provides an interesting counterpart to Edie as the narrative is split in third person between the two.

This novel may not be the most fast paced out there, Harkaway provides some vivid description and some great imagination in this book that wouldn’t be found in an author that’s written twenty more novels than he has. There’s a lot crammed into Angelmaker, and it’s to Harkaway’s credit that he manages to pull it off. What I discovered whilst reading a few reviews for this novel, Harkaway is (according to Kirkus) the son of famous spy author, John Le Carre. I found this interesting and would like to compare the author’s writing style, but alas – I have not read anything by John Le Carreso I can’t really do that. But I just thought the fact would be interesting nonetheless.

Angelmaker is sadly not a perfect read, mainly due to Harkaway’s attention to detail. He describes a lot of things that wouldn’t be really necessary to go into detail in, such as toes. But I think that is the only flaw that lets this otherwise brilliant novel down, and as a result, the strong, compelling dramatis personae, the weirdness and the interesting plot make for a fantastic read.

Verdict: 4/5

More by Nick Harkaway: The Gone-Away Wind, Edie Investigates (Short Story)


Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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