The Well Between the Worlds (Monsters of Lyonesse) by Sam Llewellyn

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The Well Between the Worlds (Monsters of Lyonesse) by Sam Llewellyn

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann
Reviewed by Stefan Bachmann
Summary: Wonderful world-building, careful plotting and an utterly original take on monsters will have readers gladly forgiving the author his use of clichéd characters.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407102405

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Idris Limpet knows he is special. He can make insects fly upside down just by wanting them to. He can hear other people's thoughts and sway their decisions. Unfortunately he can also swim. But why is that a bad thing when his country, the land of Lyonesse, survives entirely on the gifts of the sea? Because, if you can swim you are a Cross, half-man, half-monster, and if you are a Cross you have to die.

When Idris falls into the ocean during a game with school-mates, his true nature is discovered and he is whisked away to be crushed (which is the preferred method for doing away with Crosses). Of course, he is rescued in the nick of time by a mysterious stranger who takes him to the capital city. There Idris will begin his training as a Monstergroom, a catcher and subduer of monsters.

First off, I have to say I absolutely loved the key concept of this book: in Lyonesse, monsters are caught not simply for being blood-thirsty beasts (even though they are) but to be used as fuel for the country's industries. I found this refreshing twist on the usual nab 'em and stab 'em, and just one of the many original ideas The Well Between the Worlds holds between in its covers.

The next best point is Lyonesse itself. Every detail, from the names of the daily meals (nuncheon for lunch, zupper for supper) to units of time (a glass is Lyonesses's equivalent of a minute) is spelled-out, giving the country extra depth and realism. It has its own government, its own hierarchy, its own religion, its own laws, its own food, its own geography... By the end of the book you feel like you've gone on a day trip to some faraway land and learned all sorts of strange and interesting things there.

Unfortunately, there are some problems attached with going into so much detail. Where there ought to be action, there's talking and explaining instead. The author would have been better served following the old 'show, don't tell' rule. Also, in his fervor to create a unique world he rather neglected its population. The whole cast of characters is far too familiar, their development arcs too predictable: there's the girl of wealthy family, at first snooty but slowly progressing to kind, loyal and dull. There's the wise old mentor, the nasty, ambitious rival... And of course there's Idris himself, who is equal with the best of kid-fantasy heroes in terms of special powers, dark pasts and destined-for-saving-the-world futures. You won't have to think long to come up with each of these characters equivalents in, say, the Harry Potter series.

All in all, though, The Well between the Worlds is a lovely book. All the clever flights of fancy are expertly woven into a plot that is fast-paced and fresh in its execution. I doubt the staple characters will bother this book's main audience anyway. In fact they might even prefer the familiar faces. Whatever the case, they will most certainly be drawn into the richly imagined world and swept up in the thrilling plot.

I would like to thank Scholastic for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Two other wildly imaginative yarns that mix monsters with strong world-building and rollicking adventure are The Immortals by Paul Stewart and Monster Blood Tattoo by D M Cornish.

Buy The Well Between the Worlds (Monsters of Lyonesse) by Sam Llewellyn at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Well Between the Worlds (Monsters of Lyonesse) by Sam Llewellyn at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Well Between the Worlds (Monsters of Lyonesse) by Sam Llewellyn at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Well Between the Worlds (Monsters of Lyonesse) by Sam Llewellyn at Amazon.com.


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