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Saturday, 12 May 2012

Abhorsen, by Garth Nix, Reviewed.

This fantasy was recommended by readers on Goodreads. Had I realised, before I started to read, that this book is aimed at young adults, I probably wouldn't have bothered. And that would have been a real shame, because I thoroughly enjoyed this yarn of good versus evil.
The book is the third in a trilogy, so certain aspects only grew clear as this section of the tale unfolded. But the author has woven the fabric of his fiction with such skill that I was prepared to put up with references that initially meant very little. It wasn't long before I was absorbed by the characters and their adventures. The imagined world, with its division into a magical realm and one of technological progression, worked well, especially highlighting the prejudices, distrust and suspicions harboured mutually on each side of the dividing wall. I've no doubt that this could be read by some as an analogy on divisions currently experienced in the Middle East, but I was happy to read the story simply as an escapist romp through a well-drawn landscape.
The characters, including the animal personalities, are all well-rounded individuals with their hopes, dreams, quirks, faults, gifts and positive attributes. I found them all credible and felt they avoided the stereotypical so often found in fantasy of lesser quality. The plot is clever, sufficiently convoluted to hold mature attention, and unusual enough to sustain the story. The imagined world is similar enough to our own that it requires no lengthy descriptions but unusual enough to require its own maps for guidance. That strikes me as a good balance between imaginative creation and reliance on existing experience to satisfy both the reader's quest for novelty and the need for familiarity.
The denouement begins a good way from the actual end and the author skilfully builds the tension, making the book a real page-turner. My reading of this book was interrupted by a trip away from home and visits to various family members, which made it impossible to sit down and read it through without interruption. Had I had that opportunity, I've no doubt that I would have read it from cover to cover in one sitting, however.
If you enjoy your fiction with originality, adventure, and wholesome companionship (there is no sex or even romance in this volume), you'll enjoy this. The quality of the writing is good throughout and there is enough action and emotion to satisfy the reader. I recommend it.

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