The Mirror Chronicles: Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone
|The Mirror Chronicles: Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
|Summary: Part two of an epic quest to save two worlds: thrilling, beautifully written, and more than a little scary in parts. Not for the faint-hearted!
|Date: July 2015
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
|External links: Author's website
Sylas Tate has been through a lot, considering he wasn't yet in his teens when his journeys began. His mother is lost, leaving him to the less than tender mercies of his uncle, and after a strange incident in book one of this series he found himself travelling to another world. Even more bizarre, while he was there he encountered Naeo, his other half – not some jokey reference to a future wife, but the true second part of his soul. The two worlds (ours, based on science, and the Other, based on magic) were once one, and it is the dearest wish of the down-trodden inhabitants Sylas meets to unite them again.
As this, the second book opens Sylas and Naeo, who barely know each other yet, find they must set out again on their travels. Sylas longs to go home to find the mother he has recently discovered is still alive, and Naeo is determined to free her father, who has been imprisoned by the dark lord Thoth. Of course, this is exactly what Thoth, whose idea of unity is to turn everyone in our world into slaves, would expect, and so to fool him the two young people must agree to swap quests and go in search of the other's parent.
It has to be said that while this book is the second in the trilogy, it isn't exactly a self-contained story in its own right. The adventures are just as thrilling and well-imagined as in the first tome, but this one is, pure and simple, a straight continuation, and readers who have not yet met Sylas will struggle a little, especially during the first chapters, to follow what's happening, and who's who. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that it receives four rather than five stars: once the quests are under way the drama, battles and near-misses take over to carry the breathless reader along with no time to think. Malformed, evil monsters, created in Thoth's dungeons, are only one of the many, many hazards Sylas and Naeo come across, and along with their poor companions, they endure much pain, fear and suffering before they finally meet up again.
Another challenge is the question of how to categorise this book: despite the youth of the hero it will certainly appeal to teens, but what about younger readers? There is absolutely not a whisper of anything of a sexual nature in the book, and the language, while rich and powerful, would not pose much of a challenge for those at the more mature end of the pre-teen age group. And yet... the violence may mostly be off-stage but it is clearly there, and torture is discussed more than once. Naeo herself is in constant pain because of the dreadful treatment she endured in the dark depths of the Dirgheon, and her wounds, both physical and emotional, are described in detail. In the final analysis the decision about whether to read this story now, or leave it a couple of years, will depend on the individual: young people are, on the whole pretty resilient to the evil and bloodshed they see daily on the news and elsewhere, and as long as they know what's coming most will cope very well. It is a huge, exciting book, full of engrossing ideas about freedom, justice and relationships, and many a young reader will love the chance to really delve deeply into such a well-constructed, highly original fantasy.
As stated above, you'll enjoy this story much more if you read it after the first book in the series, The Mirror Chronicles: the Bell Between Worlds. Another series which definitely has a dark side, but which still manages to find plenty of warmth and even some humour, is Piers Torday's trilogy on climate change: The Last Wild, The Dark Wild and The Wild Beyond. It's won prizes, and rightly so, because it's excellent. Best of all, of course, is Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials – epic, brilliantly imagined and written, a true masterpiece which can be read on several different levels.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mirror Chronicles: Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Mirror Chronicles: Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone at Amazon.com.
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