12-year-old Portia is staying in North Wales with her aunts, Rose and Bramble, since her mother is too unwell to take her on a longed-for holiday to Andalusia. Her apprehension at meeting relatives who haven’t seen her for nine years is quickly dispelled when she sees the remote and beautiful position of her aunts’ cottage and the quirky and fascinating interior of the house. When she discovers a key in a hidden drawer of Bramble’s desk and is drawn to follow a mysterious fox across the surrounding countryside and through a door which the key opens, she is so curious to explore that she neglects to close the door behind them.
Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative, Ben, whose mother has introduced him to Portia, also finds that things are not quite what they seem. He rescues an injured blackbird, only to see it transform into Ridik, a tiny man who warns Rose that the fox is the cunning Robin Goodfellow who is trying to return to his home in the Faerie kingdom. When Rose and Ridik race to prevent him, Ben insists on accompanying them and thence begins a journey into worlds beyond human comprehension.
Tordasi creates a series of fascinating and often terrifying worlds which have their own legends and mythical creatures and through which the children, with Rose and their fairy guides must find their way. The Grey King and his Huntress want to control the worlds and one of the weapons in their armoury is a fog which strips people of their memories and therefore their sense of self, thus rendering them harmless. The David and Goliath analogy comes to mind most forcibly here: a small army of fairy creatures with their own skills finely honed but facing a numberless army of shapeshifters, ruthless in the pursuit of what they most desire.
Readers will be surrounded by and fully involved in the detail of the warring worlds and thanks to skilful characterisation will care about what happens to those fighting on the side of good and feel curious about what they hope for. The battles are absorbing, fired by a love of country and compatriots, often worryingly hanging in the balance between good and evil. Finally, good prevails after near-disaster has repeatedly raised its head, but the doors to the Other Worlds must remain locked in perpetuity to prevent the Grey King penetrating human realms. Tordasi’s moving and exciting story would be a marvellous research tool for discovering more about those who ruled in ages gone by-and is, indeed, a reminder to us all about the strength of moral compass and of true friendship.