Top critical review
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Very disappointing I'm afraid to say ...
on 23 February 2012
At the time of writing there are 39 reviews, 38 of which gave this book 5 stars and one 4 stars, and it was on the strength of these that I ventured to read this book. I'm sorry to say that I honestly can't understand why so many people have rated it so highly, and in future I am going to be very wary of amazon reviews. As such I feel compelled to share my own, radically different perspective, which I hope at least some prospective readers may appreciate.
Firstly, I want to say that I am a huge fan of children's fiction, but good children's fiction which also appeals to adults. Books the likes of The Hobbit, the His Dark Materials Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, and of course the Harry Potter saga. Those books all have magical themes to them, but more than that there is something very magical about the way their authors tell their respective stories, something which is so captivating and which draws you into and makes you marvel at these fantastic worlds which they have created and the various characters and creatures which inhabit these worlds.
With Tilly Greenway, yes there are various magical elements to it, but on the whole there wasn't really any magic to the storytelling. I especially found that the characters were very one dimensional, and most of them lacked any depth whatsoever. I never really got to know the main characters at all, since the author doesn't really spend that much time describing what they thought or how they felt. The good guys all seemed to have exactly the same voice, and the bad guys were very timid and on the whole were utterly unconvincing. I just never once got the impression that they had any evil intentions whatsoever. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you could edit the bad guys out of the story without affecting it too greatly.
One thing that really annoyed me is that there were many moralizing segments about how mankind was destroying his environment. Most of the story was just so happy-happy, nothing exciting ever happened. It was all quite predictable, and hence rather dull. Quite a lot of it followed the formula of talking about something that was supposed to happen in the future, and then that thing actually happening in the future. There was no mystery, no intrigue, nothing surprising whatsoever. As such I never really felt a strong urge to read on, and in fact on several occasions I nearly gave up. But I felt I should read it through to the end to see if it redeemed itself, however sadly it didn't.
I'm not even entirely sure what the target audience for this book is. I'm convinced that if I was anywhere between 7 and 13 I still would find it lacking in all the ways which I have described above. And really I don't think it needed to be 490 pages, the story could have easily been told in half that amount without losing very much.
On the plus side, it was well written, the chapters were short and there were many, and there was some interesting background material drawn from various alternative history theories as well as folklore. And of course the cover is beautiful, but of course there is that old adage about book covers, which is really apt in this case.
I honestly don't believe this book will ever become a classic, it just lacks the spirit that classics have, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. I absolutely do respect the other reviews here thus far, but I couldn't help but get the feeling the the emperor has no clothes? Maybe I'm just been too harsh, or maybe I have really high standards and they weren't met here.