Finished: June 27, 2009
First Published: May 26, 2009
Genre: children, fantasy
Ian Wigby sat on his cot, staring at the raging storm just beyond his window.
Reason for Reading: The jacket flap simply intrigued me. The book sounded right up my alley. I received a copy from the publisher.
Comments: Set in the 1930's along the White Cliffs of Dover atop of which stands an old castle and its keep. In that keep is an orphanage run by the earl, who owns the property and the land. It is here that orphans Ian and Theodosia (Theo) have lived most of their lives. Now 13 and 10 respectively they spend a lot of their time secretly exploring the caves within the cliffs (a most forbidden activity ) until one day they discover a silver box that contains an ancient prophecy that will forever change who they thought they were. As they turn to leave the cave they are chased by a hellhound and now that the evil forces are after them they have only one path to follow to save themselves, the children at the orphanage and perhaps the world.
What an intricate, deep plot to follow! I admit it took a bit of getting into as their were so many things going on and stories being told that I started to get lost a bit but I went with the flow and soon enough understood the different angles. This book has it all: ancient Greek mythology (though the author takes liberties with real names creating her own ancient-ancient mythology), Druid oracles, Phonecian relics, evil sorcerers and hellhounds. Starting off in England and veering off into Morocco this is an adventure as well as a mythological-steeped tale. Part of the book has a very ancient fantasy lore feel then in another part it went all Indiana Jones. There are quite a lot of different types of action happening here, not to mention the orphanage moments which have that boarding school feel that is so popular. You certainly don't get bored!
One thing I particularly liked was the unusual party of questers in this book. Usually one can assume in a book like this we'll have a group of children with some boys and some girls. Ms. Laurie has created a very unique group. Here we have a party of six containing 1 girl and five males, also the group contains three children and three adults. There is a hierarchy of power. The adults expect the children to obey them as they look out for their safety yet the adults know that the children have a special connection to what is going on and know things instinctively that they don't. The children often assert their power of intuition over the adults leading the way but they follow the authority respect (this is the 1930s, remember) and they also know the adults know much more than they do because they are educators. Everyone is friendly and gets along well with each other within these dynamics.
The party consists of an old professor of archaeology, two twin brothers who are schoolmasters at the orphanage and very educated, and Colin, a new boy who is undernourished and very skinny. He has a sense of comradery and bravery but sometimes his body just won't let him follow through. Ian and Theo are the two main characters of the group. Ian is a typical boy, all about adventure. He actually wants to be an explorer when he grows up. Finding treasures in the wild and getting rich. Theo, who was given to him to look after as a sister when she arrived, is a unique character as well. I really like the way the author has portrayed her. She is a strong-willed girl and doesn't let anyone walk over her but she is not pushy. Sometimes she is all for whatever adventure is going on but at other times she'll find something too dangerous and will be scared and not want to do it. Sometimes girls are portrayed in books as supergirls who can do anything, I prefer this real life example of how girls are just like anybody else sometimes strong, sometimes scared and being scared doesn't make you weak. Theo always keep face and she saves the day more than once just by being herself, faults and all.
A well-written book. Very long, with no pictures it will probably take kids a while to read but it is full of action and plot. This is not one of those 500 page books with 200 pages of filler; this is 500 pages of pure story. There is also quite a bit of violence; there are battles, people get killed, it is described briefly and is not pretty. Kids sensitive to that sort of thing may want to avoid this book. If you like your fantasy mixed with ancient history and mythology this will be your kind of book.
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