Sarah's Stars

Thomas Wharton. The Shadow of Malabron
Doubleday  $22.00  ISBN 978-0-385-66457-8   363 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

"Don't go, Will," she said.

He ignored her and went over to the motorcycle. Taking hold of the handlebars he lifted the kickstand, then began to push the bike out of the campsite. When he was on the road he looked back at Jess. She was watching him, the bucket still in her hand. She lifted her other hand and waved.

Will frowned and gave her a quick wave back. Then he turned, broke into a trot, and hopped onto the bike. He'd only ever been allowed to ride it up and down the street in front of their house, under Dad's supervision, but he had learned enough to start the engine and ride on his own.

A moment later he was roaring away from the camp. He heard his father shouting his name, but he didn't look back.

On the move to a new town after his mother's death, Will is anything but happy. He's rebellious and angry and most of all, he's still grieving for his mother and moving feels like leaving her behind. In a rash act of disobedience Will takes his dad's motorcycle and rides through the growing darkness towards a carnival with the cops on his tail. After ditching the bike in the forest Will heads towards what he hopes is the Perilous Realm, a fair with fun rides and interesting exhibits. What he gets is a tree decorated with shards of broken mirrors, which leads to a girl named Rowen who takes him out of the dangerous forest and into her home with her toymaker grandfather. But, where are the cars? The computers? The jeans and t-shirts? Fortunately for Will, he managed to evade the police but unfortunately, in the process he stumbled into a whole new world! A world where stories weave in and out of each other, where hobbits and Harry Potter mesh together like peanut butter and jam...a world where a dark presence is searching for Will. A dark presence that won't stop at anything until it has found the boy and taken over the entire Perilous Realm!

Yes, I can hear you heaving a big sigh. Here we go again, yet another fantasy book. By now you'd think there would be nothing left to contribute to the genre of fantasy tales. But apparently, there is. Thomas Wharton has somehow written a tale with plenty of action, beasties and baddies, a strong cast of supporting characters and a na´ve hero who just wants to find his way back home, all the while keeping things interesting. Although the basic skeleton of the story is pretty overdone, the neat little quirks that provide the flesh and organs for the tale are all Thomas Wharton's own. Things like vast libraries with hidden wolves, endlessly repeating tales called story shards that can suck you in and trap you and a wise old man who is not actually a wizard, but a toymaker instead, are just a few of the new ideas found in the book.

No, The Shadow of Malabron isn't an original work of literary genius but it isn't an exact carbon-copy fantasy either. It's more of a classic; with age-old elements that have a cozy feel to them, like putting on your favourite pair of old blue jeans. Fantasy readers new and old alike will enjoy curling up with Thomas Wharton's first installment to a series that will continue to add bright, fresh gems to the genre. Hopefully.

I give Thomas Wharton's The Shadow of Malabron four stars.


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