By Author / Illustrator
A.J. Hartley, Manuel Sumberac
Paperback / softback
Darwen Arkwright's world is turned upside down when he is forced to move from a small English town to Atlanta in the United States of America. Feeling out of place and struggling to fit in at school, Darwen seeks solace in a mysterious shop full of mirrors. It's there that he discovers the ability to step through mirrors into different worlds - worlds beyond his wildest imagination. Darwen befriends creatures including Moth, a tiny being with mechanical wings, but he soon learns that there is a terrible darkness threatening this new world . . . and only he can save it.The problem with doors is that they open both ways. There are monsters inside, and some of them are trying to get out ...
Monsters in the Mirror is book one of a beautifully creative fantasy series. I enjoyed every pacey chapter (as old as I am! ), routing for the main characters - who are quirky and at times quite funny - until the very last page.
Darwen Arkwright has had to move from England to a small town in Atlanta in the USA to live with his aunt, due to the tragic death of his parents (sorry a spoiler, will try not to give many more). He is not only struggling with his grief and change of home but also a new school. Hillside Academy is a strict place with school bullies that are typical but sadly there is a lack of depth in the teachers, who also seem mainly to be bullies, making Darwen feel so out of place right from the first day. However, he does manage to make a few friends, Rik and Alex, who accidentally end up helping him save a world called Silbrica.
During a shopping trip with his aunt, a strange bird catches his eye and he follows it to a strange and curious little shop at the back of the shopping centre. He goes inside to discover the place is full of old dusty, neglected but expensive mirrors. The owner Mr. Peregrine, after a strange conversation with Darwen, loans him a mirror which he takes home and hangs in the back of his wardrobe, and this is when the adventure begins...
Later in the evening the mirror changes, he no longer sees his reflection but that of a forest and he discovers that he can just manage to pass through the mirror himself into this new world. Darwen is greeted by a Dellfly, a small almost fairy like creature with mechanical wings, but Silbrica is not full of fairy, elves etc, oh no, it's got gnashers, scrobblers and shades, who he soon discovers need children to increase their own powers!
This is 424 pages of pure fantasy with a Narnia feel to it. What child wouldn't want a portal to another world in the back of their wardrobe? The story is suitable for the 11+ reader, confident or not, as the story is broken up with short pacey chapters that have wonderful illustrations at the start of each one to feed the readers imagination. I will give one warning though, the creatures in this book do have at times a creepy, sinister feel about them and some events in the story may leave the sensitive reader a little nervous.
Monsters in the Mirror would also be great for reading and intervention groups as there are quite a few areas for discussion within it pages. The ending leaves you itching for the next instalment so you can dive back in to the adventure! Thankfully I can do that straight away with book two, The Mirroculist Mission. Fingers crossed it will be as action packed and entertaining as this one.
452 pages / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 11+