One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

Series: Impossible Times #1 Rating: 4.75/5
Date of Publishing: May 1st 2019 Genre: fantasy, YA, sci-fi
Publisher: 47North Available: Amazon,
Number of pages: 201 Author’s website: http://mark—

Quote of the Book

“Michael Devis had a broad face, dark flinty eyes, and a remarkably clear complexion for a fifteen-year-old boy. He deserved acne. You want people’s badness to show. The poison inside him should be bursting out. Instead, he looked almost amiable when he wasn’t sneering. I was taller than him, but he filled his blazer out in that chunky sort of way that’s part muscle and part fat. ‘What?’ he asked, the sneer deepening into threat.

But the falling hair had taken my attention. A thick dark tuft. The kind you should have to rip out. They said that if the chemo was going to take your hair it would do it somewhere between the second and third week. I wondered if eight days were a record.”


In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted. 

Personal notes

My first book by this author.


Song of the Book

This was such a difficult decision between It Can Happen by Yes and Fight the Good FightbyTriumph.
I ended up going with Triumph because It Can Happen, was a tad upbeat sounding compared to Fight the Good Fight, which is a bit heavier in the guitars plus the lyrics fit better.



At 15, Nick is diagnosed with leukemia. Soon after he begins his treatment Nick starts to experience weird events, strong feelings of déjà vu and a mysterious stalker.

Nick is a smart kid, like genius smart. He should be in advanced grades but screws up the placements on purpose so he stays behind with his friends. Nick doesn’t need another reason to be the target of bullies, he and his group of friends, are just enough on the outside fringes of what passes as normal by the cool kids, as it is.

Nick has already lost one parent to cancer and now he is faced with it himself. This experience that comes from life throwing you curve balls at a young age, coupled with his intellect, gives him a kind of wisdom that makes his observations feel more mature. But genius and observations can’t prepare a person for the awkwardness of being a teenager and that is where Nick shows his true age.

I liked the dry sciencey tone to Nick’s voice, the way he processes works for me and helps keep the cancer prognosis, the treatment and outlook of survival from feeling too heavy, while not sugar-coating a thing about it. Also, the disease never disappears as the book proceeds, it’s there right to the end with no hiding from the potential outcome.

Nick has a good support system in his friends and we get lots of fun friendship moments between him and his buddies, whom we get to know mostly through their D&D meetings and hanging out. The inclusion of the new girl Mia, in their group, throws the boys for a loop but she quickly proves to be a great addition to their campaigns, as well as something special to Nick.

These parts have that eighties feel, like Super 8 or Stranger Things – it’s a time when kids could run freely around neighborhoods without too much fear and if you are into D&D, there is that sense of nostalgia of getting together to campaign.

The writing style is my favorite – it’s immersive and clear. It gave me a Stephen king vibe – not only for characters that are tangible… you know, the kind you get when you have a decent understanding of people and what makes them tick. But also, for that clean writing that says everything it needs to with less – nothing proves that more than the title of the book.

I loved this passage:

“People look funny when you turn down the TV volume and they dance without music. When they talk without meaning it’s the same thing. If you ignore the words, there’s an honesty in the emotion that fleets across faces in conversation. Around my mother’s eyes was a surprising desperation. If I had been listening to her, I wouldn’t have noticed it. She was always on top of any given situation, gathering the facts, completely in control of herself. Steely stare, serious grey hair–she’d gone grey in her twenties–narrow mouth carefully shaping each interrogation. But with the sound turned down she looked on the edge of tears.”

This scene of Nick observing his mom, and realizing how tightly she is wound trying to keep it together for his sake, shook me, and I, on page two, was close to tears.  I’m old enough to have seen both sides of this scene – maybe not for the same reason but with that same helpless fear. That one look, as parents we’ve all been in the position to have had, and as a child to have witnessed it.

Be it good or bad, this passage set the tone for me and I never really let go of that underlying fear of having to go through something like this as a parent or child. Which is probably why I liked Nick’s clinical kind of thinking and the distance it gave to the story, but at the same time that distance also kept me from totally loving it too.

All I can say about the plot without spoilers is that it’s one of those things I love but oh, how it makes my brain hurt.

I can’t even pretend to understand the math parts of the story and knowing the author is a math guy, I am grateful he took pity on us non-math people and didn’t go all Heinlein on us.

That said, the science/math stuff was explained well enough that I almost felt I could grasp it and wouldn’t doubt it possible for a minute, but like that ghost you see out of the corner of your eye, for me the understanding of it was gone just as quick. The story of me and math hasn’t changed since school.

Being that this book is short I blew through it fairly quickly. It’s hard to call the book outright fun because it does have that bit of darkness, but the friendships and comradery gave it heart where it was needed and that I enjoyed.

So, I am just going to leave it there and say: If you’re like me and been hearing lots of good things about this author but haven’t had the opportunity, or weren’t sure where to start with his work…well, then this is a great place to jump on the Mark Lawrence bandwagon.

This review was written by Jen (BunnyReads)

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