The Catalyst by Helena Coggan

Brilliant premise with a lot of potential but some messy writing and a messy end, amazing for a 15-year-old.

Helena Coggan is probably so damn sick of people referring to her age. Almost every review I’ve read has brought it up so I’m sorry to be joining that club. But, this book has a complex plot and a wide variety of characters with very different personalities and the first draft was written when Coggan was 13. I was never this insightful or perceptive at 13.

Anyway, enough rambling about the age, let’s get onto the book. The Catalyst is sort of a sci-fi, fantasy, semi-post apocalypse sort of book. It’s set in London after the cataclysmic War of Angels, Andrew Ichor managed to tear the sky apart and souls came tumbling down. They fused with the people of Earth and from then on everyone had two souls. Some can use magic (Gifted) and others can’t (Ashkind). Naturally this created tension and a war ensued between the two. Forward wind several years and the Gifted won and the Ashkind have been second class citizens ever since.

But, the story is much more complicated than that. Throw in Hybrids, Demons, the test, the leeched and the Gospel as well as the Angels there’s a whole society here. It can reach such depth and there’s a whole load of mythology as well. The Government has been stripped back and replaced with the Department and the Parliament of Angels, it’s an impressive setting.

The story follows Rose Elmsworth, adopted daughter of David Elmsworth, as she goes through her Test to determine if she’s worthy of keeping her magic. After that her life takes a turn, which she couldn’t expect to get any worse because both she and her father are Hybrids, a monster considered so evil that everyone is permitted to kill them on sight if they suspect.

As I said, there’s so much promise with this book and the story has a great amount of potential. The writing, for the most part is great but it can use a little fine-tuning here and there. However, I suspect this is something experience brings. Unfortunately, there were parts that took three or four reads to digest properly and there was some character development that made no sense.

This does carry on into other parts of the story, which is such a shame because I wanted to be a lot more positive, I didn’t want to be saying this. But there’s a bit between Aaron and Rose and it was so obvious what was going to happen, firstly because there had been hardly any preamble between the two characters and secondly it’s that type of story. Of course it is, they don’t live in some ideal place, bad things are always going to happen. and, to be fair, it makes for a far more interesting tale than the alternative. But the scenario was unbelievable, it felt like a scene from an American TV show, and the way Rose reacted was disappointing. I know I have no right to say this, because she’s Coggan’s character, but it really did feel like she went out of character at that moment in time.

Rose as a character is likeable enough and easy to empathise with, her dad is an odd one, you’re supposed to like him but his reactions and some of the things he says makes him more psycho than protective father. Yet, you can’t help but like him.

Then the end comes. It is simultaneously satisfying and not. Again, actions make no sense, characters act counter intuitively but there’s a cleverness to it that’s hard to ignore. I’m still not entirely sure about what happened and some of it seemed pointless and a little rushed. Yet, I really want a sequel.

My time in that world feels unfinished and I need to know what’s going to happen next.

Despite some of the obvious flaws I will recommend this. It’s exciting to see how Coggan’s writing talent, because she obviously has it, will grow and this world with it.


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