By Author / Illustrator
Chicken House Ltd
Paperback / softback
They say magic is long-gone ... but is it? A chain of fantastical mishaps in schoolboy Bert's dull life spiral out of control - but then he's rescued by Finch, a plucky girl-adventurer with metal legs. Soon they're sailing through the clouds on a pirate airship bound for the forgotten land of Mirinor. Magic is their destination, for reasons Bert will soon discover ...
After a confused beginning, this story about magic settles down and the last third begins to make sense. Bert lives at a school in a land where magic has been banished as have the mages. On a trip to the museum he goes through a mirror and develops a throbbing pain and light in his hand. Here he encounters Professor Roberts, who is a pirate and who escapes capture by Prince Voss and his men. Back at school where Bert is constantly bullied he discovers he has a friend, Norton, and meets a new girl called Finch who wants to befriend him and protect him. It turns out that Professor Roberts is not the villain he supposed, and Bert and Finch end up on his airship trying to stop Voss by finding out what happened to a wreck in Ferenor. I think this is a story where too much has been crammed in and would have benefited from some editing to make the story clearer and also lose some of the vocabulary which makes the action difficult to follow. The scenes on the airship and in the clouds above Ferenor where the towers appear are good and described well so that the reader gets a good sense of the action and the plot. Where it fails is in the initial explanations of the scenario with magic and the mages, a picture of which only emerges later in the story by which some readers may have given up. Bert is an unlikely hero and the reader warms to him especially being able to almost feel the pain in his hand and his bewilderment about his friend Norton who only appeared when he was hurt, and whose fate he is desperate to find out about, only belated realising that Norton is the spirit who can save him. Cassius. who turns out to be Bert's father, somehow makes it to the towers - magic? This is yet another book which would really benefit from a map - somehow editors do not seem to realise that it would enhance the story especially as a journey takes place - there is no GPS here! Boys of 10 would enjoy the action, the violence and the special effects once they had weathered the beginning. Pages: 277 / Ages: 10+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 9+
A P Winter's debut novel is a charming and fantastical tale about long-hidden magic and the extraordinary adventure that unfolds when a naive schoolboy unleashes its extraordinary powers. Bert's hum-drum existence spins dangerously out-of-control when a school trip to a new museum opens a doorway to another world. Intrigued by the magical artefacts on display, Bert touches an ancient mirror and finds himself transported to a parallel universe. After becoming entangled with the'The Professor', Goodrich Roberts (a pirate intent on looting certain artefacts) and having a vision of the sinister Prince Voss, a confused and jittery Bert returns to school only to find another adversary waiting Cassius is a Quaestor, a Government agent appointed to investigate the strange events at the museum. When Prince Voss appears Bert is surer than ever that he will be carted off to prison or worse. Whilst deliberating his own precarious situation he realises that there is some long-standing quarrel between the Prince and the Quaestor. Although not fully understanding what has gone on he hears enough to work out that the Prince is furious at the Royals loss of power and that Cassius is equally determined that the Government not the Royals are the true lawmakers in Penvellyn. As Bert learns more about his mysterious past and becomes further embroiled in the tale of the abandoned magical land of Ferenor he finds some surprising allies and a new enthusiasm for adventure. This book plays on the idea that magic is distrusted and forbidden. This is an idea that has been used before but the story fizzes along at a decent pace and in Bert we have an amiable and intriguing hero. There are also some neat touches of humour (particularly from Bert's friend Norton) and some lovely turns of phrase. An enchanting whirlwind of a read. Pages: 277 / Ages: 8+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 9+