By Author / Illustrator
Usborne Publishing Ltd
An exhilarating, awe-inspiring debut from a master storyteller writing for children for the first time, perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Katherine Rundell and Eva Ibbotson.
When Rachel and Robert are passed a stolen book by their librarian father, they have to go on the run and protect it at all costs. With their father captured and everyone hunting for the Book, they must uncover its secrets and track down the final, missing page. But the cruel and calculating Charles Malstain is on their trail. When the children discover the astonishing, magical truth about the Book, they resolve to do everything in their power to stop it falling into his hands. For if it does, he could rule forever.
Step inside the pages of an immortal adventure and discover a truly unforgettable journey of wonder, courage and magic...
Rachel lives with her older brother, Robert and their parents in the city of Brava in the land of Krasnia. Her father is a librarian and works in the North Brava Public Lending Library. When Rachel was just a baby, the Krasnia was taken over by the evil dictator Charles Malstain. He hated children and banned them from playing in public. Robert and Rachel have only ever known life under Malstains' cruel regime.
When Rachel is eleven and Robert thirteen, they are taken to the library by their father and are given a book - The Book of Stolen Dreams - and are told to protect it at all costs. The book contains a secret which Malstain desires above all else, and he will do anything to possess it and its final, missing page. So begins a magical and marvellous adventure for the brother and sister as they travel from Brava to solve the mystery of the Book of Stolen Dreams. On their travels they meet a wonderful cast of characters who all play their part in helping the children on their dangerous quest.
At the heart of the book is the theme of family; even when separated Robert and Rachel are always a team, looking out for each other and never losing sight of their goals. The idea of immortality is also an important part of the book, and leads to some very moving scenes as Rachel has to decide between what she really wants and what is best for the land of Krasnia.
The characters are beautifully drawn and very engaging, Rachel is a true heroine, always managing to find a way out of the tricky situations she finds herself in. Robert, with his scientific mind, is principled and brave. Both children are determined to fulfil the mission passed to them by their father and will do whatever is necessary to bring down the evil Malstain. I also loved the character of Josef Centurion, whom we first meet when he is working for those who want to stop Rachel and Robert from succeeding, but who finds his courage and 'moral compass' as the story progresses.
This is an extremely gifted debut by David Farr, an exciting and thought-provoking story in which the action never flags. When Rachel and Robert are separated, the narrative switches between their two stories so that the reader is constantly wondering what will happen next. The conclusion to the story is cleverly given to us in the form of newspaper reports so that no detail is left out.
The book is beautifully written, very moving in parts but also with a great deal of humour. I can see it being turned into a very successful family movie in the right hands! There is a hint at the end of the book that we will be hearing more from Robert and Rachel, and I await this with great anticipation. Unfortunately I cannot comment on the illustrations (by Kristina Kister) as my proof copy did not include them, but I am sure that they will only add to what is a really lovely first novel which I will be heartily recommending to all my school librarian colleagues.
384 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, School Librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+