This ambitious, wide-ranging novel is as densely woven as a rare fabric. It moves through time, countries and cyberspace, uniting two young people who should never have met.
The book opens with Emily Bronte viewing Tom, who is in hospital in a coma and 200 years in the future. The rough and tumble of the Bronte parsonage is beautifully evoked-its familial battles and intrigues and its bright, intense creativity a stark contrast to Tom’s sterile hospital room, its silence broken only by the sound of the machines which keep him alive and the voice of Lucy, who comes every day to read Wuthering Heights to him, in the hope of generating a response.
Tom’s mental faculties are unimpaired, however he can only communicate this to the reader, which is particularly dramatic when his doctor begins discussions with Tom’s parents about turning off his life-support machines. When his treacherous friend Milo – a consummate computer gamer -unscrupulously inserts a hitherto untested gaming prototype in his ear, Tom’s adventures into a virtual reality begin. He meets Emily-Lady Augusta in her own created literary world-and together they plunge into a conflict-drenched adventure with more than a whiff of Game of Thrones. Characters are many and varied and all scrupulously created, with only the occasional glimmer of stereotyping. Emily does battle for her wild moorland kingdom: Tom fights because it is infinitely preferable to the living death which he has been enduring.
The pair fall in love and when, after all their machinations, their battle is lost it is to the Bronte-created kingdom of Gondal they plan to flee. They must first escape from the virtual world in which Miles has placed Tom and this section of the book takes Emily to the future and both of them to the brink of annihilation. The intricate and intriguing plot is driven by drama, by ancient rites of passage and by magic. Tom’s nurse, a shaman since birth, senses that he is leaving earthly realms and draws him back-to the ‘real’ world and an awakening from his unconscious state. With a distant echo of Heathcliff and Cathy, Tom and Emily never forget the ties they knew and her spirit returns to him as a source both of comfort and of loss. This is a challenging book- but a rewarding one too.