Friday 6 May 2016

Book Review: Diamond Boy in the Rough by Helen Faul

Last Updated: 5 June 2021

Diamond Boy in the Rough by Helen Faul book cover

AD* | What if he couldn’t control it? What if he didn’t want to?

Alfie Diamond, flat on his back, chilled to the bone in the freezing, unforgiving snow.

Shocked, dumbfounded but even so secretly excited, still tingling from the thrill, if that was the correct word to use, from his near-death experience but then again maybe it was just the mind-altering effects of hypothermia, who knew?

The images that had flashed before him during his “first” mind-blowing Awakening were alien to him, jumbled, super-fast messed-up glimpses of things to come and things of the past, but whose past, certainly not his, he would remember, surely, wouldn’t he?

The faces didn’t register, the language fell on deaf ears and yet he inexplicably felt connected, suddenly his life gained a sense of direction, no more bobbing about like a cork in the open ocean.

Purpose and motivation were coming his way, that much he had acutely been made aware of as the nerve endings of his brain cells fizzed with adrenaline-infused blood.

He was on a precipice, he could lay there and continue to stare up at the descending snowflakes, let the raw, biting cold take him or he could grab this adventure with both hands steamrolling into a new unknown future, a future born of a secret so far back, so distant into the past it would surely send him to hell and back.

Evil would seek to destroy him, Good would look to him as a saviour, him a naive, curly-haired East End boy, youngest of six children, average school grades, slight misfit on the outer edges of the obligatory social groups, not fit enough to be considered a 'Jock', not clever enough for the nerds and certainly not fashionable in his tatty t-shirt, shorts and scruffy trainers to be one of the 'beautiful people', a square peg in a round hole, well this square peg had been enlightened, today Alfie Diamond was reborn and if he ever got up onto his feet again, his first steps would be into a dangerous new world, a world he hoped included the beautiful stranger whose silken long hair trailed across his face as she hovered over him as he slipped in and out of consciousness, a world he hoped would not chew him up and spit him out.

I was sent a copy of this book to review back in September of last year, but due to various bits and pieces and life getting in the way, I've only just got round to actually reading it. (Sorry, Helen, I'm not usually this slow!)


Diamond Boy in the Rough is Helen Faul's debut novel. Marketed as YA fantasy, it's actually one of those rare young adult books that manage to successfully cross over and work equally well as an adult book too. There's none of that patronising tone often sadly reserved for children's and YA fiction here. Our main character, Alfie, is instead treated as an equal and much-valued person by the rest of the cast. 

Alfie Diamond is a pretty typical pre-teen boy. His attitudes, views, and general outlook on life are very lifelike, as is his preoccupation with swear words and toilet humour! Alfie was brought up in London's East End, which is clearly evident by his mannerisms and accent (which, by the way, is very cleverly done - writing accents convincingly without going overboard can be very tricky for a writer!) However, I found some of the phrases Alfie used at times to be a little jarring. Would a modern-day young boy like Alfie really use phrases like, "Cor blimey?"


I found the plot to be incredibly fast-paced - perfect to keep younger readers engaged, but maybe a little too fast-going for my taste. Personally, I would have preferred to see more description and development between the major plot points. I felt that a lot of pretty big things kept happening completely out of the blue, which can disrupt the overall flow of the novel.

And speaking of the overall flow of the novel... I'm sure regular TWG readers will know by now just how much that mistakes, typos and general clutter irritate me when reading. Sadly, there were quite a lot in Diamond Boy. Now, this is just me being picky as I'm sure most people would just gloss over the issues, but I can't help wanting to get my editing pen out for this book all the same. The joys of being an editor, right?

Editing issues aside, Diamond Boy is a great tale of fairies, family, and hidden past, with a realistic, engaging main character.

Rating: 3 stars

A promising debut, Diamond Boy in the Rough is available to buy now.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Will you be reading Diamond Boy in the Rough? Let me know in the comments below!

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