The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas (Shane's book 4, 2008)

Stories are usually more enjoyable if you don't know what to expect and that's how I came to this story. I read the cover blurb: a PhD student, Ariel Manto, discovers a staggeringly rare book, The End of Mr Y, in second-hand bookshop. She knows that the book is rumoured to be cursed but, of course, she reads it anyway. She soon discovers the truth about the curse. That takes you to the end of the first part of the book. If you like, you can find out more about the remaining two-thirds of the book here but I'd recommend that you approach it as I did.

Thomas mingles quantum physics, philosophy, religion and literature to create a thought-provoking fantasy novel. I enjoyed it but it does have some major flaws.

Firstly, it doesn't quite break free of (what I assume to be) its influences. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, The Matrix and even Alice in Wonderland all loom large in the narrative but the effect is not disastrous.

Thomas's themes - the nature of reality, the power of belief and even the creation of life itself - are set out somewhat heavy-handedly. You can't fail to understand what this story is about, so it's odd when a subplot surfaces in the final third of the novel. It's one of the most affecting parts of the novel but it breaks the story's rhythm somewhat.

Finally, there's the epilogue, which Thomas admits in an afterword was a "risk". To my mind it does end the book with a clunk rather than a flourish.

Nevertheless, Ariel is a well-drawn, rounded character and her journey unfolds with real pace. Barely a scene is wasted as Thomas unfolds the adventure with real wit and intellect.

While its flaws stop The End of Mr Y being a great novel, they don't stop it being a very entertaining read.