Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney

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Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Volume three of this lovely fantasy series sees our heroes survive a battle between warring tribes, en route to a hidden lost city that might just be better off remaining hidden. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0370329185

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This then is the third chance we have had to meet Sebastian Darke, dodgy jester turned reluctant adventurer, and all-round thinking girl's bit of elfish male totty. He's travelling with Cornelius, a valiant half-pint warrior, and Max, a magically talking pack animal (a buffalope, to be precise), who has a terrible wind problem, is always complaining, and has forsaken his chief god, Colin.

The troop is travelling in order to rediscover a lost fabled city, but fall into a circumstance of inter-tribal warfare, between the pleasant Jilith and the horrid Gograth. The larky fantasy of this book then deigns to declare Sebastian the Jilith's Chosen One, and with Cornelius pretending to be a master tactician general they might just be able to rid their hosts of the Gograth for evermore, and keep Max from being casseroled.

And there I'll leave the plot, even if the blurb-writer goes a lot further. For once, however, that is not as big a disappointment as it could have been, for there are still many surprises to be found in the delightful pages to come. There are several big twists and turns in the mood of the piece, and many a highly dramatic happening that causes a character to change (even if they're often allowed to change back quickly). Antagonisms are borne naturally, and come from understandable circumstances due to, say, the geography of the story, which is itself commendably varied.

In all, there is a lot of variety in this story, so much it could have been a muddled mess, but never is. We are engaged with the charm and success or otherwise of these characters, and the world they live in creates for a lot of action, mystery and the unusual.

I note the publishers are aiming this at the 9-11 age range, but I should say that some of the battle action feels rather vivid and visceral for the more sensitive. It's just another instance of how pictorial the writing is – I don't think we ever fail to get a lovely clear picture in our minds of what's going on.

If one were to absorb the whole trilogy (so far – there's more to come where that came from, happily to say) one might get a bit tired of Max feeling picked on for his weight, but from this example of the cycle I see a lovely and engaging fantasy series, that people of any age would be happy enough to read. It's never too complex, or trying too hard to do something different, but serves as a great entertainment set in a wonderfully created world.

I am very grateful for the publishers for sending the Bookbag a review copy.

The wilful descent into broad punning here, and the pleasant band of odd creatures on their quest for other people put me strongly in mind of The Mapmaker's Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre! by Rob Stevens, which is a comparison not to be sniffed at. It also has a lot in common with Titanic 2020: Cannibal City by Colin Bateman.

Buy Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sebastian Darke: Prince of Explorers by Philip Caveney at Amazon.com.

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