Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young Scotsman living a rather ordinary life in London. One evening, on the way to an “important” dinner with his fiancée Jessica and her boss, Richard stops to help a severely injured young woman on the sidewalk. Jessica’s outrage at this leads to their breakup, but soon, Richard is noticing much bigger changes in his life. His office is empty, his apartment is being rented to someone else, and nobody from his life recognizes or even sees him.

The biggest change of all comes when Richard, desperate to get his life back, finds himself in London Below, the world from which the injured young woman, simply named Door, had come. Here he encounters beings and things he never imagined existed, some of them beautiful, some of them hideous—and many of them dangerous either way. As Richard accompanies Door, the arrogant Marquis de Carabas, and the beautiful bodyguard Hunter on the quest to avenge Door’s dead family, the magical and complex nature of London Below presents countless challenges, not the least of which are the assassins Croup and Vandemar, whose mysterious employer insists that they capture Door (for undisclosed reasons, of course). Along the way, Richard learns that many beings and places in London Below are not at all what they seem at first glance, and that perhaps he is a stronger person than he thought when his life in London Above began to crumble.

I do not want to give away too much about the world of Neverwhere, because it’s much more fun to discover them on your own.  I will say, though, that the rich details of London Below are a joy to read. Even the more grotesque elements of it are delightful in a strange, morbid sort of way. The novel, in my mind, is a dark, modern twist on classic stories like The Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it also reminded me more than a little bit of the beloved science fiction series Doctor Who. The science fiction, fantasy, and horror elements all blend together perfectly.

Having now read both Stardust and Neverwhere, I can very surely say that Neil Gaiman has quite a gift for creating worlds in which the reader enjoys getting lost. Like Faerie in Stardust, reading about London Below often made me forget where I was. Gaiman makes this fictional place feel so vivid and so real that it will almost be a surprise to me when I finally make it to London someday and do not somehow end up in London Below.

Gaiman’s writing is so intelligent and so engaging that, when reading his books, I start to wonder if I’m more of a fan of the fantasy genre than I thought. I think it helps that his characters are not all mythical creatures, and even many of the characters one would never encounter in reality are somehow human enough that I can almost believe they exist. I think, having read Neverwhere, that I could also get really into the urban fantasy subgenre. So, if you have any recommendations for urban fantasy novels (or even any other really good fantasy novels), go for it!

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