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Enthralling, even for adults
on 18 December 2011
I am not by inclination a natural reader of fantasy literature, preferring instead the genres `Military History' and `Comedy/Humour'. In fact the only fantasy author I've ever really had any affection or time for was Terry Pratchett, until he inevitably became tedious and repetitive, pitiably stuck spinning his wheels: Gosh, a malevolent supernatural phenomenon is inexorably threatening the entire Discworld, but an unwilling/unlikely hero saves the day in a near deux ex machina denouement, how original! That being said, I do retain enormous respect for Sir Terry's overall body of work, particularly his inventive `Johnny' books and outstanding opening brace of Discworld novels (`Colour' and `Light'), and here's where things get interesting: `Otherworld - The Isle of mist' was given to me as an early Christmas gift - unexpected but not unwelcome - and for me the fluid, engaging writing style coupled with genuine wit and intelligence are very much reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, although there is unquestionably no brazen aping of an established master in evidence here. For one thing, `Otherworld - The Isle of mist' is (tenuously) bound to our real world, centred as it is on the rich Celtic myths and legends peculiar to the Isle of Man, imaginatively and artfully crafted into a well-paced and entertaining adventure that is uniformly articulate and absolutely engrossing without being at all derivative. For another, the plot is markedly energetic to the point of breakneck liveliness, a stark contrast to Pratchett's measured buildups.
I enjoyed Pratchett precisely because he made the unreal seem real, expertly keeping his writing devoid of jarring artifice to convince the reader that the described events could very well be taking place somewhere. That takes uncommon eloquence and creative talent, narrative abilities to raise a story from a stark, bare-bones account and with apparent effortlessness transform it into something so beguiling that it becomes entirely believable. All the carefully-honed gifts required for such feats of unconscious deception are richly evident here: Adrian Bailey displays a very distinct and potent storytelling skill. The brisk procession of diverse characters are endearing, or at least intriguing and relatable, and there is great clarity of depiction in his penmanship.
It would be almost cruel to impart any specifics of `Otherworld - The Isle of mist', thereby depriving the reader of a wondrous literary journey to come, other than to say that it is a vibrant contemporary fantasy of ancient magic, secrets, witches, strange lands, sorcerers and jazz musicians. I myself went into it completely cold, knowing nothing more than the promotional overview on the back of the book, and was decidely the better for this lack of forewarning. `Otherworld - The Isle of mist' is principally a children's book, and while it is true that the vivid scenes are conjured up and laid out clearly yet concisely - the way one might explain something to a young person, but without being in any way patronising - beyond the gentle, unaffected language employed this is difficult to discern. The amusing, propulsive storyline is sophisticated while always remaining intelligible, composed of wholly familiar elements that adults can just as easily appreciate and enjoy: surprise developments, unpredictable twists and turns, heroes, villains, fear, suffering, triumph - all permeated with warm humanity, lucid ingenuity and latent understated humour.
I was very pleasantly surprised by `Otherworld - The Isle of mist' and I'm convinced that anyone who simply enjoys a well-told tale, almost irrespective of genre, will derive significant pleasure and satisfaction from the reading experience. I shalln't be waiting to receive any subsequent novels as presents but fully intend to order each for myself as it becomes available.