Robin Fellows lives with his grandmother, and lives what appears to be a rather ordinary life for a normal twelve-year-old boy. But when Robin’s Gran dies, quite suddenly and a bit mysteriously, his life is turned upside down. A long lost relative comes out of the woodwork and whisks him away to a mysterious new home, Erkling Hall, a quiet estate in the solitary countryside of Lancashire. Suddenly Robin must adjust to his new reality. But reality is no longer what he thought it was…Erkling has many secrets. There is more than meets the eye to this old rambling mansion. Little does he know that there is more than meets the eye to himself. Robin is the world’s last Changeling, descended from a mystic race of Fae-people. Their homeland, the Netherworld, is caught in the throes of a terrible civil war. Not only this, but in this new world there is a magical force that has infiltrated the human realm. But before he can wrench power from the malevolent hands of the Netherworlde’s fearsome tyrant leader, Lady Eris, he must first search for the truth about himself and the ethereal Towers of Arcania.
I grew up on fantasy books, and it’s pretty safe to say I still haven’t grown out of them – you’ll find that the majority of books I review tend to run that way. Why? Well, like many, I view books as an escape, and I tend to find that there is a huge amount of skill involved in creating fantasy worlds. It’s all very well to write a crime or thriller set in the modern day, but you’re writing in the world the reader is already familiar with. But to create your own world for the reader to visit? That’s something that requires skill, imagination, hard work, and a lot of luck…
Happily, James Fahy has managed to conjure up a new world that is both comfortingly familiar, and magically strange. Robin is transported from mundane to suburbia to a world of mystery, before taking a full on tumble into a magical landscape, and it’s a very clever way of easing the reader in to the environment, meaning they are there with Robin every step of the way.
There’s no shortage of likeable characters to meet either, with Henry, Phorbas the Tutor, Aunt Irene, Woad the Faun and the mysterious Karya all coming together and facing such evil characters as the grotesque Moros and Strife, working for the evil Lady Eris… There is a traditional element to the plot, but it’s balanced well – I was happily reminded of the books of my childhood, but still found the plot exciting and unpredictable, with Fahy weaving a twisting plot that takes the reader on quite the adventure. Magic is used well too – it’s got limits and a system of use that I found fascinating, and hope will be expanded on in future books.
There’s more to come in the series, and I for one am very excited indeed –It’s great to see a new series that reminds me of the “Narnia” series by CS Lewis (without the overt religious preaching, thankfully), “The Dark is Rising” by Susan Cooper, and “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen” by Alan Garner – all childhood favourites of mine. Fast moving and thrilling, there is magic and mystery at every corner, accompanied by compelling characters. I’d recommend from anyone from the age of 10 or so – this is a book that manages to be suitable for both children and adults, and I imagine they’d have to be made of stone not to enjoy it…