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Literature / The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray

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A 2001 horror novel by Chris Wooding, set in an alternate-history London.

A young wych-hunter, Thaniel Fox, finds an amnesiac young woman—the eponymous Alaizabel Cray—in the wych-kin infested Old Quarter; a police detective investigates the latest in a long series of murders by this history's Jack the Ripper Expy, Stitch-Face. As Thaniel investigates Alaizabel's history—and the strange tattoo at the base of her spine—he discovers links to the Fraternity, an Eldritch Abomination-worshipping cult, just as the detective works out that not all of the murders are the work of Stitch-Face...


The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray provides examples of:

  • All Myths Are True: When people start being killed by particularly grotesque fairy-tale characters, you know something's up. Except they may have got cause and effect a little confused...
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Fraternity
  • And I Must Scream: Alaizabel, while controlled by Thatch.
  • Anti-Villain/ Villain Protagonist: Stitch-Face is a Jack the Ripper-esque serial killer who describes himself as a monster. He also saves Alaizabel from the Fraternity and delivers a Karmic Death; his role in the story is aiding the heroes, but his motivations are anything but heroic, never mind his methods, leaving it unclear on which side of the divide he lands.
  • As Long as There Is Evil: An unusual case- until humanity has the collective maturity to accept our failings, we need someone to blame; since it's the Age of Reason, there's no supernatural force to take responsibility. That's where the wych-kin come in...
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  • Broken Pedestal: Mostly averted, because Alaizabel didn't think THAT good about her parents even before knowing the whole truth about them...
  • Chekhov's Gun: It would be suicide for anyone but a wych-hunter to go into the Underground, would it? Thank God for our heroes' occupational choices...
  • Connect the Deaths: Hidden behind a series of relatively mundane deaths, the "Green Tack Murders" are part of the ritual to summon the friendly neighborhood Eldritch Abominations.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The Fraternity are trying to bring about the return of the dark gods known as the Glau Meska. The world won't be an entirely happy place if they manage.
  • Crapsack World
  • Creepy Child: Devil-boy Jack; the small bald girl who appears in people's dreams and gives them the Crimson Fever.
  • Declaration of Protection
  • Demonic Possession: Alaizabel is possessed by an ancient wych, summoned into her by the Fraternity.
  • Demon Slaying: Despite the name, wych-hunters aren't bothered about witches- they hunt the wych-kin, basically every fairy-tale monster ever.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Wych-Kin and the Glau Meska (or "Deep Ones") worshiped by the Fraternity.
  • Enemy Mine: Stitch-Face tells Alaizabel more about the Fraternity and then lets her go after he realizes the Fraternity have got Thatch out of her. "I am a monster, Miss Alaizabel. But even monsters want to live."
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Towards the beginning of the book, Thaniel demonstrates his Improbable Aiming Skills with a long shot at a Cradlejack about to escape into the Thames, but many wych-kin require slightly more esoteric methods.
  • Functional Magic: The wych-hunter use Wards (magical symbols with weird powers and geometry) and Rites to aid with their job; Thatch and, later, Alaizabel can draw Wards without anything to draw with. Or on.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Having your body controlled by an ancient witch isn't exactly fun.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: The first hint that Doctor Pyke might know more than he's letting on.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described
  • Karma Houdini: Stitch-Face never pays for his crimes. The again, the universe could be having him doing community service by making sure that the Big Bad does...
  • Karmic Death: Stitch-Face is very unhappy that someone's been copying his work. He's off to... talk to Doctor Pyke about it at the end of the book...
  • Oracular Urchin
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Semi-averted. One of the core themes of the book is the idea of the Age of Reason; since the most recent war, the old superstitions have disappeared. Then the wych-kin arrive, completely defying modern science and requiring a return to superstition to work out how to beat them. And maybe their arrival just after everyone stopped believing isn't such a coincidence... This leads to...
  • Science vs. Magic: Many characters seem dubious as to the merits of the wych-hunters' methods. They work.
  • Thieves' Guild: Mentioned, along with the society of the Crooked Lanes—the beggars are organized in four gangs, each ruled by a Beggar Lord.
  • Religion of Evil: The Fraternity are the Secret Circle of Secrets variant.
  • Urban Segregation: We have the north side of the river, where people live; the Old Quarter on the south side, where poorer people work (and leave quickly before the sun sets); and the Crooked Lanes, where the beggars live.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Cathedral of the Fraternity is the standard insane hyper-Gothic spire-covered monstrosity type, with the added bonus of being in the middle of an enormous storm.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Alaizabel. It didn't quite work out.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Neatly sets up the alternate history setting with the second word.