When one’s permanently stuck at age 11, living forever can lose its appeal.
Being one of the legendary “Neverdead” thanks to a magic potion, Alve (aka “Alfie”) has spent the past millennium or so with his equally immortal mom and cat, just getting by and keeping out of sight. What has become increasingly difficult in today’s Britain turns impossible when, tragically, his mother is killed (they are not invulnerable) in a house fire—leaving him injured, traumatized, and all too exposed to local police and social services. Fortunately, there’s an antidote to the potion. Unfortunately, he’s outwardly 11 (albeit polylingual, classically educated, and well versed in 17th-century fighting techniques) and owns nothing except a rescued trunk of autographed Dickens first editions. Welford gives his world-weary protagonist several resourceful allies led by Roxy Minto, a young neighbor of West Indian descent with a big personality, and her naïve but game sidekick, Aidan (who, like Alve, presents as white and who shares narration duties with him). Alve not only has to cope with modern life and elude civil authorities, but also to evade a brutal adversary who’s been after the antidote for centuries. If readers find themselves wishing for more than tantalizing glimpses of Alve’s experiences in earlier centuries, his immediate plight is absorbing, as sharply felt as both the weight of all those years and the shining promise of being able to grow up at last.
The sweet and sour of immortality infuses a heady, heartbreaking, occasionally humorous tale. (Fantasy. 11-13)