Back to The Divide
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'Well, dunk my paws in custard, you could have knocked me down with a brazzle's feather,' as Ironclaw or Pepperwort or Turpsik or Snakeweed or Granitelegs or almost anyone in Back to The Divide - or its forerunner, The Divide - might say. This being a fantasy, Part III is on the way. The trilogy is, if you like, for those who take their fantasy 'lite' - it's pacey, witty, verbally agile and, as far as the plot goes (and it goes all over the place at speed), tricky to keep up with. We are quite definitely not in the High Fantasy secondary worlds of, say, Tolkien, Le Guin or Pullman, where quests are won with difficulty and at a cost, where magic is profoundly rooted and mastered with effort or sacrifice. You don't have the sense that in the next valley only a hundred years ago, other equally powerful tales might have been unfolding, all somehow connected to a single great narrative. Here, on the other side of The Divide from our own 'real' world, a charm can be instantly conjured up to solve any awkward situation, fights are usually soon won by our side and the baddies aren't that bad anyway - though they are often very amusing. The vision is essentially comic and if that's what you like - and very many young readers will - then this is a comfortably risky world to explore for a while. This author is more present in the text than in those fantasies told with the classic detachment of the oral storyteller or ballad singer. The humour is knowing, since the allusions, vocabulary and behaviour of the brazzles, japegrins, sinistrims et al often include an element of parody of our own world - you might get a joke about a personal organiser for instance; and this is a vein of comedy immensely helped by the fact that English is the common tongue beyond The Divide. Our hero, Nicholas, leaves our world to find a remedy to release his mother and father who've been frozen to stone (or something) by the japegrin, Snakeweed, who... well, that's how it begins. From then on, episodes follow helter-skelter without necessarily adding anything towards the final solution (it's not that kind of plot) - we career along as fast as Nimby, the magic carpet, can carry us. Not a book to disturb, then, but to entertain - as you'd expect from the moment you pick it up and see that, as with its predecessor, the physical divide right down the middle of the hardback front cover. So, each time you read, it's rather like opening a storybox.