The Bloodstone Bird by Inbali Iserles

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The Bloodstone Bird by Inbali Iserles

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very enjoyable teen fantasy read, with two children breaking into a parallel world in search of a mystical and world-changing bird. Both sides of the balance are full of detail and realistic touches.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406304046

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I will admit, I had to double-check the gender of the author of this book at one point. Her evocation of school days, especially considering it was through the viewpoint of her male hero, Sash, was so spot on. Indeed, for the son of a mysterious taxidermist, with a dead mother, and a terribly picked-on outsider nature, all his life seems perfectly realised in the first third of this book.

There was a great sense of truth to the lonely mealtime they shared, fish and chips on their laps and dad's choice of a migratory bird documentary on the telly. Sash is having a torrid time at school, but cannot break through his father's insistence he go there to appease anything. There was also a lovely touch to school life – not just the tormenting that I think is done with much better realism than many similar books, but just down to the small, minor touches as well – does everyone have memories of a PE teacher who either smoked like a chimney or looked like a gorilla?

Anyway, mystery piles on mystery in Sash's life, as he breaks into – that verb again – his father's study, and finds clues to something he can hardly understand. Joined in a slightly unlikely way by the school beauty, Verity, the couple break out – hello – into a fantasy realm, with a quest of its own regarding who-knows-what and you'd-do-best-to-find-out-for-yourself aplenty.

Here too the realism is seemingly done very well, although I thought if anything there might be too much in the way of strange fauna, flora and habits of the people resident there. Still, the story is a completely engaging one – as close to unputdownable as any volume can be – and the flow of the narration continues with perfect pace and energy.

There might be too much too to the paragraphs where the children have to justify why they are still intent on the mission within this fantasy world, and Verity's aspect of it just sounded naff, I'm afraid. Before that there is a pair of sections – one for each world – where a lot of exposition has to be undergone, and it's only disguised to some satisfaction.

These though are the most minor of quibbles, for I think this fantasy remains a sterling work. I thought reading through – quite avidly, as I say – that it would be very suitable for anyone from 9-15; while it might not have an instant re-readability, it must rank as one of those more value-for-money books where a wide age range could satisfy themselves very happily by entering its pages. It would easily pass from brother to sister too, being very approachable for either gender.

I also certainly appreciated the fact this was a one-off, and not the first volume in a series. So many times a brilliant and well-realised world is revisited ad nauseam, and things go rapidly downhill. By refusing to make this the opening of a series, I think Iserles has shown us great credit. Some might say the ending given us is a touch pat, but I think it's excused.

I really hope the audience is there instantly to build this into a successful book. It has great characterisation, especially where Sash is concerned – his foreign nature is not laboured at all, and he comes across as a perfect Everyboy example. That might be negated by the brisk addition of fellow adventurers in the fantasy world, but the British schoolchildren remain firmly our link into the story. The authoress has great control in just the smallest of flashes to her otherworld, Aqarti, and its mythology, and throughout there is no padding.

Instead there is a very pleasant fantasy read that sweeps from charming realism to pure fantasy with many a cliff-hanger to keep the reader very satisfied. I was happily one of those, and I think Walker Books deserve a huge hit here. We Bookbaggers are very grateful for our review copy.

Birds, their song and its relevance to a fantasy world also feature in Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding which has a very different feel but is equally enjoyable.

Booklists.jpg The Bloodstone Bird by Inbali Iserles is in the Top Ten Books for Young Readers That Feature a Passage Between Worlds.

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