Across the Wall by Garth Nix

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Across the Wall by Garth Nix

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: This is an interesting collection of stories from Garth Nix, best suited to fans of his work. Some are stronger than others, but all provide vital clues to Nix's thinking. Those new to the author would perhaps do best to begin with a novel.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: November 2006
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 0007221452

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This is a collection of thirteen short stories by Garth Nix, an an author very popular in playgrounds up and down the land. I like Garth Nix. He tells a great story and writes utterly without pretension, using an interesting blend of reality and magic to make a fantasy world that has its roots very much in our own experience. His books are direct, strong on narrative and tension and never descend into the turgid, self-indulgent ramblings that scar so many fantasy novels. Better still, his protagonists are always believable, well-rounded characters.

The strongest story in Across The Wall is also the longest, an Old Kingdom novella called Nicholas Sayre and The Creature in the Case. It's placed first, perhaps to get the junior readers on side, for the rest are stand-alone stories that don't fit in with fantasy worlds already known to Nix fans. I would actually like to have seen it placed last as it's an absolute triumph, full of tension and pace. Also very strong is Hope Chest, a strange story combining the Wild West with the rise of Nazism and some supernatural abilities. I loved the originality of it. There are two Arthurian stories which both bring a very successful air of menace into the old stories. The Lightning Bringers is an interesting story about adolescents and sex, also with a supernatural edge. It's perhaps a little lacking technically, but a really great idea.

Not every story is a resounding success. There's a silly little choose-your-own-adventure spoof that left me rather cold and a tale of the unexpected with a sadly expected ending. However, I think for a collection of this kind, it's as interesting to see what doesn't work as it is to see what does. I enjoyed the read, as did both of my sons.

Ultimately, Across The Wall really is a book for the fan. I don't think there is enough in it to light a fire for children new to Garth Nix. Although he introduces each story, and although the introductions are both interesting and amusing, there isn't a great deal of technical information about the writing process and not all of the stories are equally strong. For my son, a big fan of the Old Kingdom series, Across The Wall provided some useful background to the ideas that lie behind it. It also gave him an idea of the different kinds of stories the same way of thinking can produce. Nix also comes across as down-to-earth and likeable person, not at all precious. Nevertheless, I feel Across The Wall is best read with some familiarity. New readers should begin with the first novel of the Old Kingdom, Sabriel

Across The Wall is highly recommended for junior fans of Garth Nix, for which it receives four stars. Thanks to the publisher, Harper Collins, for sending the book.

Children interested in the writing process might also like Singing For Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo.

Buy Across the Wall by Garth Nix at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Across the Wall by Garth Nix at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Across the Wall by Garth Nix at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Across the Wall by Garth Nix at Amazon.com.


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nick-is-finaly said:

I actually thought it to be a proper story and had no idea that it was 13 small stories in one book.

Well for the short story I actually thought that this was one of the best he has written compared to the Old Kingdom trilogy I was all excited, thinking that I had a whole three quarters to read of this great book. When I turn the page to find something about King Arthur. Which left me really angry.

Mainly because there is this large print of "Across The Wall" with a charter mark and then in very small font "Tales of the Old Kingdom and elsewhere." I just felt cheated and dissapointed because this small story was absolutely brilliant.