Most fantasies for older children/YAs are stories of the protagonist being drawn into another world, where magic reigns and natural laws do not apply. That is the template of the Hero's Journey, from Star Wars, to Lord of the Rings and many more. Usually, the hero eventually returns to the everyday world, transformed.
But this is a different story, a story of the terrifying, elemental power of magic re-entering our everyday existence, transforming not only the main character, but everyone and everything. Treadwell's keen ear for contemporary speech patterns and behaviour makes this a powerful and unsettling concept, and suggests that, even at the end of his projected trilogy, there will be no return to order as we now know it.
Cornwall is a natural setting for such a story to begin, and when Gavin, a disaffected teenager banished from boarding school and alienated from his parents, is packed off on a train to Truro to stay with an eccentric aunt that he barely knows, the scene appears to be set for a formulaic English fantasy. But what happens after he arrives and there is no dotty aunt to meet him takes us into very different territory.
Like many writers of fantasy who have created their own inner worlds, Treadwell writes haunting and beautiful prose and has a deep feeling for landscape and the way it is shaped by local history and topography. I've never seen Cornwall captured better, even by Daphne Du Maurier. But the familiar Gothic scenario of a mysterious, remote country house with its occupants marooned in time and menaced by supernatural forces develops into something equally influenced by classic science fiction narratives of a menacing alien presence invading the charmed world of faerie and the banality of everyday life. A sort of Rebecca meets Day of the Triffids meets Doctor Who (but without the lightness of touch).
The book certainly has its weaknesses. Treadwell is an academic and can't resist complicated sentences filled with qualifying subordinate clauses and abstract nouns. He adopts the voice of the omniscient narrator and, while this certainly suits the story's epic quality, this limits his ability to capture his character's language and thought proccesses in a gripping way. It takes about 150 pages of dense and repetitive exposition and worldbuilding to get to the point where things begin to hot up. But that doesn't necessarily preclude him from being the next Tolkien: plenty of people struggled to get as far as "The Council of Elrond" in LOTR. It's notoriously difficult to predict what the next cult fantasy phenomenon is going to be. Hodder just might have hit the jackpot and, while I'd have preferred a little more hands-on editing, the lack of it never seemed to do JK Rowling any harm.
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