Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz

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Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A republication of retellings of renowned legends by a reliable author.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0330510165

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Bringing things that are this old to an audience this young cannot be an easy feat. Anthony Horowitz must be more than able. An old volume of retold legends and fables from his typewriter in the 1980s has become a series of six books, rejigged on his computer, and presented very nicely by Macmillan. The first to hit the shelves (Legends: Beasts and Monsters) was a successful gift to us of five stories of olden beasties and baddies. Here we get a full half-dozen, and the quality is just as compelling.

We start with a very straight, if modern and accessible, visit to the labyrinth containing the Minotaur, one that includes all the back-story as to why Theseus felt forced to go there. Spreading our wings further, we get a tale classically told with patterns of threes, and hubris, from China. It also does what legends should do to really hit the mark, in my mind – bring an aspect of their bearing on a small feature of modern life, as if to prove their reality. This one did, however, leave me wondering where on earth the battle or quest was supposed to have been.

Romulus and Remus do do battle, however – fighting against each other, and against their unusual upbringing. By this time you might well be contrasting this volume with the earlier one, and several things will be apparent. Prime among those you may be wondering where the humour went – I will leave you to decide how funny (or not) the fourth tale, featuring an implausibly-named South American hero – might be.

I do also wish too often, reading these, for a break from the straightforward telling, with the narrative structure and authorial voice being too similar from one to the other. The fifth tale here is the strongest breaking of that bond, but I cannot say anything else for fear of ruining this fine Incan origin tale.

Adults browsing this book (and it won't take an hour for them) will recognise the ugly wife as featured in the closer, but they won't have found anything within these pages to make them worry about buying this book. All the legends, from whichever corner of our world they come, have been presented with a bright efficiency just right for the under-twelves. The large font might make the book look empty, but the quality is throughout – and extends to the artwork, which I can rate very highly.

If four stars look low, then I'm possibly thinking how great the original all-in-one book might have been. But this series, with a further pair planned for 2011 and 2012, provide a very good introduction to legends and fables for a young audience who will thoroughly enjoy everything here. Apart, perhaps, from pronouncing that uncommon name so often…

I must thank the kind people at the publishers for sending me a review copy.

We would point you once more to our Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales. For more Horowitz, one with a nice historical bent is The Devil and his Boy.

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Buy Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz at Amazon.com.


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