By Author / Illustrator
Alex Bell, Tim McDonagh
Faber & Faber
Paperback / softback
Twelve-year-old Eli is an apprentice librarian at the largest library in the world. But when his grandmother falls ill, he enters the Glorious Race of Magical Beasts to raise money for her treatment.
This annual race is always held in the most perilous places and is full of spiky dangers. Most participants seek out unicorns and dragons to help them on their conquest. But not Eli. He embarks on this journey with his trusted pet and friend, Humphrey, his moon tortoise.
Moon tortoises aren't suited to racing and Eli is no natural adventurer. But he soon finds himself in an unlikely partnership with Raven, a rule-breaker and skilled archer, and her ice hare - one of the fastest animals in the world. If the two children put aside their differences and work together, they might just reach the finish line!
The Glorious Race of Magical Beasts is an absolutely amazing and epic adventure across perilous, peculiar and far flung lands in a race of a lifetime!
The competition, known as the Glorious Race of Magical Beasts, could not have higher stakes for 12 year old apprentice librarian Eli Fleet who is desperate to win this dangerous (possibly deadly) dash across land and sea in order to preserve and save the magic powers and strength of his beloved but ailing grandmother. Having lost his own parents to this famous, frantic and fearsome competition and, being by nature a quiet, shy and reserved tweed suit-wearing book lover, Eli seems like an outsider in the betting in every possible way. He collects stamps, he starts each day cleaning up after the library bats and his own 'glorious beast' , Humphrey, is a tortoise (hardly known for being fast footed and race worthy companions).
Yet, never judge a book by its cover... When your tortoise is a rare moon-tortoise, your best friend is a shark-wrestling, brave, seafaring adventurer ( even if a fictional one ) and you yourself are, in fact, a source of surprising power, then anything is possible … When your means of travel is a living galleon called the Nepo and you have every key to every library in the world to travel between in an instant , then you may just be more than a match for competitors with blizzard sharks and lava cheetahs as their Glorious Beasts.
Stunning worlds lie ahead as the author builds layer upon layer of magical, unusual and imaginative trials for Eli to face in the Glorious Race of Magical Beasts. There are three checkpoints and three rounds to face in order to beat all the other competitors and to become the ultimate winner. There are colossal angry mermaids, fierce tigers and sinister balloon shape-shifting joo- joo bubs to defeat. Alone, Eli might have no chance, but friendships ( old and new), loyalties and a moral conscience may just be the strengthening bonds that he needs to lead him to victory and to saving his grandmother.
The Glorious Race of Magical Beasts is a beautifully written book. A book that celebrates the less likely heroes amongst us; those full of self doubt, those that tread their own path more carefully and warily than perhaps they should. It is a heart-felt and heart-warming fantastical drama, an energetic joy of a story that feels like a much loved classic, from its very opening line; "All sensible people know that libraries are wondrous and magical places".
The Race of Glorious Beasts feels like a celebration of its genre – a powerful, passionately written storytelling experience and gift for its young readers. Captivating.
352 pages / Reviewed by Jennifer Caddick, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+