What a read this YA fantasy novel is! The story follows the exploits of Christopher, a slightly damaged 16 year old, and his friend, the adventurous girl, Sama, as they battle incredible forces. There is a fascinating mingling of World War I times with the myths, legends and history of Arthurian Britain. How this connection occurs is at the heart of the story and I won’t spoil it for readers. Suffice to say that the process involved is fascinating, terrifying, mystifying, engaging and altogether satisfying.
I met the author at a fantasy convention, but didn’t pick up his book at the time as there were many titles on offer. Only afterwards, as I recalled our brief conversation, did I decide to have a look at the book online and discover more about it. I generally avoid YA stories, other than the inevitable Potter series of course, but the synopsis attracted me and I decided to give this one a go. I’m very glad I did.
The action is deceptively slow to start as the reader is introduced to the main players. However, there is always the suggestion that something strange is on the horizon, that something odd, unusual and sinister lurks at the edge of the early activities. And when the real action starts, it is relentless, carrying the reader on from page to page and making the book almost impossible to put down. But it’s a long read, so I was unable to tackle it in one go. The breaks I had to suffer did nothing to diminish the pull of the tale, however, and I was drawn back to it whenever I found a spare moment.
All the characters are rounded people, fully drawn and credible. And there is great variety here, too. We have ordinary village people, soldiers in the Great War, schoolteachers and pupils, knights in armour, Queens and gypsies, among others. And then there are the invented creatures: as frightening as they fascinating.
Settings are beautifully described so that the reader is present in all the action rather than merely an observer. And the action is described with heart-wrenching detail that has the reader on the edge of their seat wondering how things will end.
But this is more than an epic adventure tale. It tackles important themes beneath the cover of the wonderfully imaginative story. There is, as usual with such tales, the inevitable pitting of good against evil. But there is also a lot more. There are many questions underlying the text; issues of justice, the importance of relationships, the moral ineptitude of authority, hidden courage and perseverance and many others.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At 464 pages for the paperback, it’s a good long read. If you enjoy adventure set against a thoughtful and intriguing background, you’ll love this one. I look forward to more from this author.