This is a lovely book. It takes teenager David on an adventure through a fantasy world and a journey along the path from childhood to adulthood. In some ways it reads like a reworking of Wizard of Oz, except that the different aspects of David's personality are integrated in one person (unlike Dorothy's, which appear externally - in the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man). All the same, David has to develop and learn to use cunning/brains (when he solves the riddle of the two bridges), strength and courage (when he defeats the monster in the village), and, hardest of all, love for his step family, before he can defeat his enemies and return home. There are references to various fairy tales and nursery rhymes - some of them twisted and quite dark.
I've marked it down to 4 stars because, for me at least, it reads like teen fiction - it's basically a thriller given a fantasy setting and a little bit of a message - and this book doesn't match up to the best of fantasy fiction (eg the Narnia books, or Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy). The material is rich enough to carry so much more. For instance we could have been asked to question (just a little) our notions of right and wrong - ie is it always "good" to kill our enemies? Without wanting to give the end away, it would have been nice to have been left with a question mark over whether the ending was really "morally right".
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