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The Cup Of The World Paperback – 6 Jan 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi Childrens (6 Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552548863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552548861
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.8 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,227,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

(Some answers to things I get asked.)

What inspired you to become an author?

I liked reading, and of course my father (the author Peter Dickinson) was always banging away at his typewriter at home. At school I wrote short stories that pleased. So I just assumed that I could do it. It was a shock to find that writing novels was a lot harder than it looked.

Which authors have influenced you most?

I loved the CS Forrester novels and, of course, Tolkien. But I also liked TH White (THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING), Rudyard Kipling, Ingalls Wilder, Goodge (The Little White Horse), Buchan, MR James and Violet Needham. Oh, and Ursula Le Guin, especially her novel THE DISPOSSESSED.

Was English your favourite subject at school?

History, English and German. You don't have to have liked English to be an author, but it helps.

What would you be if you weren't an author?

I spent seventeen years at the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and NATO. If I hadn't become an author I suppose I'd still be there. But my pipe dream is to be an aid convoy driver, and steer a great big machine through exotic places carrying lots of good things to people who need them.

Do you base your characters on real people?

No. Sometimes I will borrow a face, or some quality in someone I know, as a starting point. If you are going to say that a character "has steel in them" then it helps if you've seen someone who is pretty steely, so you know what it means. But what really determines the character is the role I want them to play in the novel.

You mean you build your characters according to the story, not the story around the characters?

Er... Good question!

The honest answer is 'it depends'. Most supporting characters, probably yes. And that can be dangerous. Characters need their own life. Where does that life come from? It has to come from yourself. You have to be able to imagine yourself acting like that, even if in real life you never would.

You are a Christian. How has this influenced you?

It's the other way around. The things that prompt me to write about moral confusion, duty and sacrifice also prompt me to be a Christian. What tempts us? What is the Fall like? That's why my books resonate with these ideas. But I don't write to persuade. I ask the questions that interest me.

What's your latest book about?

WE is set, oh, about fifty years in the future on the moon of a giant planet roughly four billion kilometres away, where it's very cold and as remote and hostile as you can get. Once you're there, you're there for life. So what would it be like? And what would we be like, to go there?

Product Description


"Superb piece of story-telling ... Readers of Jan Mark and Philip Pullman will consume it with delight - with the pleasing prospect of its two sequels" -- Lindsey Fraser Guardian "This first novel is an ambitious fantasy saga ... After a dramatic opening scene, the pace of the book slows and then builds to an exciting and disturbing climax" The School Librarian "While high fantasy, it has the claustrophobic feel of a political and moral thriller that constantly surprises your expectations" Books for Keeps "This outstanding first novel is extraordinary and deserves to become a classic of children's literature. Serious and thought-provoking, it is very well written, substantial and evocative" Inis "An exciting and absorbing experience"

Book Description

A beautifully-structured and powerfully-described fantasy novel set in medieval times.

Inside This Book

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "kharank" on 5 April 2004
Format: Hardcover
In 'The Cup Of The World', John Dickinson has provided the reader with a fully comprehensive world, filled with characters who are both accurately human, and yet at the same time often in receipt of remarkable powers. The story is not hampered by 'fantastical' elements, however - Dickinson has managed to avoid the many potholes of traditional fantasy, and has created a thoroughly absorbing story in which the fantastic adds spice and flavour, but never overwhelms. The opening exposes us to a brilliantly realised world, and the narrative unfolds through the eyes of Phaedra, a young girl-turned-woman who finds herself in the centre of a conflict threatening to destroy the Kingdom. Picking up pace through Part II (the story is split into three sections), the plot is revealed at a tantalising rate, drawing the reader deeper into the narrative. At no time does Dickinson succumb to simple info-dump by a character, but instead rewards the reader's patience with revelations when the story is good and ready: revelations that are often surprising and never disappointing.
By turns tragic, grand and sometimes genuinely unsettling, 'The Cup Of The World' will satisfy both children and adults. On the surface is the story of a young woman caught in a web of love and war, politics and witchcraft; but there is a deeper story here, the history of a world that never was, questions about betrayal, vengeance and the loss of innocence. A truly worthwhile read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Feb. 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was initially attracted to this because of the beautiful cover & endpapers. What's inside does not disappoint - a fascinating "medieval" world with a well-crafted plot which develops, step by chilling step, into a truly disturbing and compelling story. Witchcraft, love, a faithfully-evoked physical environment. I have at once bought several copies for friends!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By I. Viehoff on 28 Sept. 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has a sophistication rare either for "teen fiction", or fantasy fiction, in which genres it consciously lies. That sophistication means that it is likely to be enjoyed also by an adult audience, as well as its target young adult audience. It is written very much at the same level as Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, ie, not suitable for such young readers as Harry Potter. And I believe that it stands up well to a comparision with the Pullman, which I recently read.

Dickinson has put considerable effort into researching the mediaeval "gothic" period, to create a realistic world of daily life, petty princes, warfare and monasteries, into which to place his story of magic. Writers, like Tolkien, who have such a coherent "back-story" are rare.

There is a realistic humanity to the characters. There is not the cannot-do-wrong hero or always-evil-baddie, (with the exception of some malign magical powers). Rather, whilst we have some clear heroes and enemies, all display only typical levels of self-interest, weakness, duplicity and generosity that any human will have. This is another level of sophistication rarely found in this genre.

Finally, the plot itself is sophisticated. There is no obvious best action that the hero has to choose. Rather, complexities are revealed to every action, as in the real world. Everyone desires unity to avoid war, but no one is willing to give up the power that they have.

On top of that is a page-turning plot that draws you in. Whilst the book stands on its own, the book ends with a tense situation that draws you in to the sequel.

Declaration of interest: the author is a friend of mine.
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By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This medieval fantasy is a story within a story, powerful and intriguing.

Phaedra gets telepathic whispers from someone she's never seen, who claims to fall in love with her. He lives in a land on the other side of the Circle Sea. She's a princess and he's a lord of his own land. Through long months they communicate, and come to understand each other so well that she decides to marry him.

Maybe she should have thought again....

Read this, enjoy it, then give it to your young teenage friends or kids. They use the internet to talk to people they don't know.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Like the Curate's egg - good in parts. 5 Mar. 2005
By Tony Watson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The story starts off in a rather stilted manner, but gradually becomes more flowing and thus more enjoyable as the book progresses, although halfway through it gets a little bogged-down and I felt as though in a dream, with something just out of reach - almost understanding, but not quite - until we discover exactly what the cup is and does.

Unusually, the story is told only from the central character's viewpoint; so wars happen and coups take place, but we only hear about them as and when Phaedra does, which can be a little disconcerting until one gets used to it. Aimed at the early teen audience, it is nevertheless enjoyable to the older reader.

An apparently simple plot; the teenage daughter of a powerful lord attends her coming-out presentation at court, only to spurn all advances in favour of her dream prince - literally, she has never laid eyes on him until he abducts her. Seemingly oblivious to the war she has just started she marries him and embraces her new existence with hardly a thought for the pain and turmoil she has left behind her, or for the strange society she now lives in. And, like a typical willful, insecure child, nothing suits her, everyone and everything conspires against her - you just want to give her a good smack!

But then, seemingly disparate threads come together with a sense of trepidation and foreboding to create a complex, compelling mediaeval tale in the old fantasy tradition. ****
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Starts like Mists of Avalon 23 Oct. 2006
By M. Lane - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is set in a King-Arthur type age. There is one kingdom and several regions each with a baron leading them. The main character is a baron's daughter, Phaedra. Phaedra comes of age and has several suitors. She marries someone her father dislikes, and she moves to his region.

After Phaedra moves to the castle, the storyline becomes dark. She starts seeing shadows and people close to her die. She feels aliented from the servants and accosted by the ghosts/demons/whatever in the castle. She begins to question what dark powers exist in the castle and if her husband plays a role in them.

I haven't reached the end of this book (about 20 pages left to go,) but I really like this book because it's different than ones I have read. My favorite books are romantic fantasy with a female lead (Sharon Shinn - Angelica, Angel Seeker, Samaria; Robin McKinley - Blue Sword; Garth Nix - Abhorsen, Liriel, Sabriel.)

This book is different. It's not an overt fantasy. The "shadows" that Phaedra is seeing seem to be madness. Not only is the fantasy played down, but romance is not a large part of the story. The story displays the ups and downs of marriage as in Mists of Avalon. Phaedra suffers when her husband is gone at war for months. Friendships become important when her husband leaves and they eventually end up saving her.

Overall, the writing is good and the story is great. It's a realistic fantasy that becomes more and more fantastic at the end. I loved the friendships and relationships in this book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Fictional and Suspenseful 21 Oct. 2005
By Centennial Critic - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Cup of the World is a great fictional, suspenseful novel. In a time of Princes and Princesses, Queens and Kings, Knights and Lords; there was black magic brooding. John Dickinson writes a tale of exceptional experience, of growing up and following ones heart instead of ones head. Truly a book that can be read and read, and still read again with out knowing everything The Cup of the World has hidden with in its pages. Based on one girl's, Phaedra's, time growing up and discovering herself along with others she thought she knew, this is a must read for any teenaged girl on the brink of insanity.

Wishing not to marry just anyone who comes along, Phaedra, daughter of the Warden of Trant, trusts her life to a man she loves, a man she had only met inside of her dreams. She runs away and finds herself in the lands across the vast sea starting, a now evident, civil war in the face. But what she finds out about her love, her husband, is that he uses black magic, like she was warned his family did. Her Father, and a few other people she knows and cares for, used this black magic too, and every one of them used it and paid terrible prices over her. But there isn't safety anywhere, will she ever find a place to protect her son, and will she ever see anyone she loved again?

Such excitement happens with in The Cup of the World's pages that it's a read that seems never ending. Accompany this book with its sequel, The Widow and the King, which is a must read if the mysteries still have a riveting effect after reading Phaedra's story. John Dickinson is a captivating writer, writing tales of heroines; tales of love; tales of why one shouldn't mess with things they don't understand; and how to over come some of the horrors a persons life could bring. So if a fantasy novel is a favorite, then this book will be up in the top 10. All and all, The Cup of the World is a book that could easily become a favorite that could be read over and over again.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
"It is a Gift the Cup Brings..." 4 Nov. 2004
By R. M. Fisher - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The intoxicating blurb tells us: "This is one of those books which hides within itself a secret, a story deeper than it is possible to convey from this blurb or from the cover. We urge you to read it." What reader could possibly turn away from a promise like that? Expecting an instant classic, a profound read and a memorable experience, I began to read "The Cup of the World," only to find that it is a typical generic fantasy novel - not bad by any means, but hardly living up to what the publishers wrote on the blurb.

Phaedra is the only daughter of the Warden of Trant, a key citadel in a land that is continuously threatened by war and rebellion. Because of her beauty and the power that her father wields, she is a most desirable bride for whoever should win her hand, but Phaedra herself is not so keen. Travelling home from the king's court with Aun of Lackmere, an ex-rebel who is exiled to Trant, Phaedra worries constantly about being forced into an arranged marriage, when her whole life she's been captivated by the man who visits her in her dreams. Connected together by the water of a strange stone cup, she and Ulfin have met for years in a dreamscape, and now in her desperation Phaedra agrees to run away with him. But he is the ruler of Tarceny, a citadel that is not loyal to the king and his sons and is surrounded by rumours of bad luck and black magic.

I better not give too much more away, for although the secret/twist of the novel is not as earth-shattering as it sounds, it is one that shouldn't be given away should you decide to track down this book. It reads a little like an M. Night Shymalan movie, in that all the clues to what's really going on are placed in front of you, but not enough factual information is given for you to work it out yourself. Let's just say that things are not what they seem in Phaedra's new life, though she is only aware of this on the most basic level, like a deep undercurrent of things being kept from her, running through her life in such a way that she hardly aware of it. From a circle of white sons around her son, to the permeating sense of her deceased father-in-law's cruelty, to the disappearance of the strange priest that married her, to her friend (and rumoured witch) Evalia's elusive nature. Against a tapestry of political manoeuvring and intrigue, most people who begin this story will be compelled to finish it.

The story takes place over several years, from Phaedra's maidenhood to marriage to motherhood, and the fantasy realm is quite well presented, from the castles and homes to the wide and rocky countryside. It actually reminded me a little bit of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, and Dickinson creates a wonderful sense of religion, whether it be the calling on of the four Angels, or the `Under-craft'. Phaedra unfortunately is not the most riveting of heroines - I never felt particularly close to her, nor sympathetic to her plight, and often her behaviour comes across as quite cold and/or snobbish (even for a high-born lady, there is a limit!)

Although the book is a bit thicker than it needs to be, no one can fault John Dickinson's beautiful language: so often other fantasy writers destroy their work by adding in contemporary words that destroy the mood and setting of the book. Dickinson has none of this, and beautifully draws together his elegant, archaic words to make the entire book feel authentic and natural. As well as this, there is the on going image of black and white, beautifully portrayed in the movement of chess pieces...

However, at the end of the day, this is another typical fantasy novel that I perhaps would have given a higher rating to if I haven't been so excited by the blurb. If you read it, you'll enjoy it, and then you'll most likely forget it.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
One of the best Fantasy books I've read in years 1 July 2004
By RedEggs - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Dickinson has a knack for description, and a grasp on the subtlties of characterization that will take your breath away. As the blurb says, this book hides a secret within itself, so I won't give away any of the plot here. You could take my advice and read it, or you could disregard this review and miss out. It's your choice.
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