The Hunger And The Howling Of Killian Lone, by Will Storr

killian loneThis is a powerful and driven story of talent, ambition, and revenge. Killian Lone is a gifted young chef who has learnt his skills in his aunt’s old cottage, a building steeped in history and the memory of his ancestor Mary, who was burned for witchcraft. From the outset of the novel it is clear that there is something special about this cottage: a secret, or a forbidden knowledge. Killian is inspired by his aunt’s cooking and by her stories about his ancestors, which give him the determination to pursue his dream of becoming a top-rate chef. Killian’s wildest dreams look like they are about to come true when he wins an internship with his idol, Max Mann, the “Gentleman Chef”. His dream swiftly turns into nightmare when Max’s true personality is revealed, and the newspaper reports and glowing reputation are clearly nothing more than a carefully created façade.

This novel is a combination of fairy-tale and gritty realism. It is atmospheric and stifling, demanding huge leaps of imagination even as it conjures what seem to be very accurate descriptions of the culinary world. It ostensibly has a weak protagonist, but one whose strength grows as he inherits the secrets of his ancestors. But those secrets were made for a reason…

Killian’s reaction to the obstacles blocking his path to culinary success is what really makes this novel. While he is disheartened, disappointed and hurt, he overcomes these ‘weak’ emotions and uses them to fuel his ambition. This sounds admirable, but there is a dark element to his behaviour. The author manages to illuminate this by using other characters such as Kathryn, Killian’s colleague and love-interest, to show us how he is changing from naïve apprentice into something much more complex and dubious. The success of the novel lies in the amazingly complex characterisation of Killian, the path he has to take to achieve his goal, and the transformation which he undergoes.

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