When Daniel Routh, together with friends Jill and Greg, and little brother Mikey, discover a body washed up on the beach after a storm, it’s one of the most exciting things ever to happen on the island of Shorepoint. And, as the man in question slowly recovers, he befriends the inhabitants of this small fishing community one by one. Only Daniel suspects something might be wrong with the newcomer, who cannot remember who he is, nor how he came to be there. To start with, this John Dee (as they label him, short for Doe) brings prosperity and happiness with him, but it isn’t long before the tide begins to turn. Then John begins to worm his way into Daniel’s own family, trying to take the place of his late father, and the teenager knows something must be done. Little does Daniel realise that he’s now involved in one of the most ancient conflicts of all time; one that might decide the fate not only of Shorepoint, but of the entire world.
This is going to be a shorter than usual review for me since the book is a short one and there are a number of things that I can’t discuss without giving spoilers for the book’s big reveal. P.B. Kane, a pen name for Paul Kane, moves into the YA market for the first time with The Rainbow Man. And it’s an interesting story to make an entrance there, as it’s a slow-building story as mentioned in the introduction by Rachel Caine, in a way I haven’t seen it done very often in YA fiction.
The Rainbow Man‘s main character is Daniel, who I found a very sympathetic character. He is very much a YA protagonist, dealing not just with a tough situation at home, but also a shift in the relationships between him and his best friends. It was interesting to see a love triangle where the protagonist isn’t the deciding factor; instead he’s the one on the outside. Daniel’s best friends are Jill and Greg. Jill and Daniel have been friends all their lives and Greg joined their band when his family moved to the island. Both of his friends have home lives that remind Daniel of what he’s lost and serve as a sort of surrogate family. But with the three of them growing up, relationships have shifted and Jill and Greg seem to be pairing off, while Daniel realises he wants to be the one Jill chooses. This creates tension between the friends and I loved how they have to fight past this to get back to their friendship.
Daniel’s home life isn’t pretty with a mom who’s looking for a solution to end her grief at losing her husband at the bottom of a wine bottle every night, Daniel having to deal with his own grief at his father’s death and a younger brother who looks to him for love and safety. I love how Daniel both resents having to take care of Mikey and resents John when Mikey looks to him instead of Daniel. Not because it was a pleasant situation, but it was a recognisable one to me. John is quite creepy; he seems harmless but he’s insidious and Kane portrays Daniel’s growing isolation – he’s the only one who sees John for the pernicious figure he is, which sets him apart from the rest of the island’s inhabitants – quite well. In the end friendship, not romantic love conquers all and I liked that. The island setting creates a creepy atmosphere due to its enclosed nature and especially since they are cut off from the outside, which is a well-worn horror trope, but Kane plays it out well.
The eventual resolution of The Rainbow Man was cool, though unexpected. The clues to John’s true identity only start to appear relatively late in the narrative. The ending felt a little redundant and was rather strange as the book seemed set in current day, not in the past, and the last few pages weren’t cast as a prediction of the future, it was cast as fact and already happened, which just felt odd. Still, I really enjoyed this relatively quick read and for horror-loving mystery fans, whether they’re in their teens or beyond, this should be an enjoyable read.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.