Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher

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Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher

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Buy Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: An other-worldly, almost mystic tale of the forces which lie behind our world and the struggle to keep them in balance.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: April 2018
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 9780141385549

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This story opens on a terrifying note. Kay and Eloise's father is working late at his college, as usual, but when the two girls and their mother arrive to pick him up, they are told he does not work there. In fact, everyone they meet insists they have never heard of him. It sounds like the beginning of a scary murder-mystery, or a cat-and-mouse chase in the style of James Bond or Dan Brown, but what actually lies behind this event is far stranger and more confusing. Later that night Kay hears voices at her window and embarks on a quest to rescue both her father and her younger sister from ruthless beings who are decidedly not human.

It's an excellent premise, with tons of possibilities for mayhem and risk. Dark forces have conspired to remove Kay's father – a far more terrible and permanent process than the word suggests – and Dr Zurcher's background as an expert on both Shakespeare and Spenser mean he is familiar with all the tropes of fantasy. Wraiths, magical artefacts, mystical sites of power abound, and in the strange worlds-within-our-world that Kay visits, it is near-impossible to tell who is on her side. But a word of caution: don't be misled by the blurb on the back of the book into expecting fast-paced action and deeds of derring-do.

So what is this book? To be honest, it's hard to say, and what is most clear is that it is a very difficult book to review. It's like that famous savoury spread people either adore or loathe on their toast, and readers will be similarly divided about it. On the one hand there are dreamlike journeys, courageous exploits, the deadliest of perils and destinies revealed. People have identities hitherto undiscovered and powers they never suspected. But readers who look primarily for speed in their stories, for a sequence of tightly-packed adventures, will be disappointed. Yes, the variety of settings and the fantastical elements are all there, and so vividly depicted that the reader suffers through each successive horror with Kay, but in return the reader must accept that the very richness of language which creates the atmosphere also slows down the pace. Feelings, backgrounds and events are described in rolling, poetic language, words piled on words, and many of them will be way beyond the experience of the average nine-year-old the book claims to be written for. Obscure, too, is some of the background. What precisely are the wraiths plotting (in their sense of the term) for? How does their world relate to ours? And what has Kay and Eloise's father been doing which makes him such a threat? While the book is in many ways engrossing, many readers will feel that they're missing something, and that some vital explanation which could clear up all their questions has been missed out.

Teens who would like to read another kind of story about the hunt for a lost father will love She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. Firmly set in this world, it features an admirable heroine who considers her blindness to be more of a challenge (which she has every intention of meeting) than a barrier. And both teens and younger readers will enjoy the fantasy of The Last Wild by Piers Torday and its sequels The Dark Wild and The Wild Beyond – Torday is a master storyteller who manages to highlight the whole issue of climate change while giving readers a rip-roaring tale of danger, disaster and, believe it or not, talking animals. Whatever you do, don't miss that dancing mouse... You might appreciate Heart of Dread: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston but we had our reservations.

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Buy Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Twelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher at Amazon.com.

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