Here are the occasional reflections of a joyful traveller along the strange pathways of fantasy and adventure. All my reviews are independent and unsolicited.

I started this blog intending to write only about children's fantasy ('magic fiction') but have since widened my scope to include any work of children's fiction that I have read and enjoyed. Fantasy will still probably predominate, as it remains a favourite genre, but I cannot now resist sharing thoughts on other wonderful books too. (MG and occasionally YA.)

Here you will find only recommendations, never negative reviews. If I read a book which I feel is less than wonderful (which happens far more often than not) then I simply don't write about it. I want this blog to be a celebration of some of the truly great books authors are currently writing for our children and of the important, life-affirming experiences these offer. It is but a very small thank you for the wonderful gifts these writers give.

I was, recently, graciously awarded an MBE. It pleased me, not so much for myself, but as an affirmation of my career-long efforts to promote children's reading and the high quality literature which supports it.

Friday, 27 July 2018

The Frozen Telescope (The Uncommoners 3) by Jennifer Bell



Uncommon indeed 

Here is an update of my post from June '17.  I lauded Jennifer Bells's new children's fiction sequence then - and my enthusiastic recommendation still applies, but now threefold. This wonderful 'entry level' fantasy trilogy has reached its third title.  

The Uncommoners  continues to provide escapist entertainment of the highest order for children who are starting on what will hopefully be a lifetime of reading novels. These books will certainly help them on that road. It is an exciting journey and these are exciting books. This author has no pretensions to be profound or 'relevant', but rather to provide young readers with engrossing escape into magic and imagination - and that she does quite superbly. And what a riot of fanciful invention, what gripping writing she brings to the task. She takes many of the best conventions of children's mystery/adventure/fantasy stories and refreshes  them with a  charm and vigour that is simply delightful. In this, she provides a wonderful complement to the many children's books that deal with real life 'issues'. Both are important, but if children are to learn to read for pleasure, they crucially need books like this into which they can escape and feel magical, at least vicariously. Such books are part of life's rich pattern and indeed help to make that pattern richer. 

Uncommonly exciting

Now that she has reached The Frozen Telescope, Jennifer Bell's quirky world of everyday objects with magical powers, has developed far greater complexity. The original setting of Lundinor, the 'undermart' below London, where such uncommon objects are traded, has now expanded to encompass similar hidden realms below other major cities, most prominently New York. The 'souls' trapped in uncommon objects have emerged as belonging to a vast army of 'the dead', many seeking the reunion which will allow them to become 'the departed'. There is also a secret society of spies, a missing sister to be found, and objects of particular power to be located and used. That is as well, of course, as the whole world to be save from the evil machinations of 'the Dirge'. Wow! How much more page-turning excitement can be squashed into a story? The answer is quite a lot. And the climax is, well . . . duly climactic. 

Uncommon and Extraordinaire 

Illustrator Karl James Mountford contributes not only another arresting cover, with a lot more intriguing detail to be found than initially strikes the eye, but again enhances the feel of the story quite wonderfully with his many in-text vignettes. 

Inevitably, this conclusion of a trilogy is not the place to start. Readers will need to have a good grasp first on all that has gone before. But for those many who are already into this world 'big time' (and there are, deservedly, hoards of them) the arrival of this final title will be an absolute joy, and bring with it not one iota of disappointment. 

I see that these books are already being translated into other languages, and so they should be. This trilogy is destined, I'm sure, to join the likes of The Faraway Tree, the Narnia books, The Borrowers and  Half Magic as a much-loved classic of children's fantasy, enduring through generations.