The blurb of this book reads...
Susan has always been a bit odd and never really got on with her cousin Nick, but the mark on her wrist draws them together in a frightening adventure. They are summoned to the beautiful land of O in a last-ditch attempt to save the planet from cruel Otis Claw and his followers, the evil Halfmen, who have lost every trace of human goodness and kindness.I don't quite know what to say about this book because it is a children's fantasy book, which is a genre I haven't read since I was a child myself. The book is average length for a children's/YA novel, 186 pages, so the action begins and finishes very quickly. I felt that the writing wasn't stellar, however it was appropriate for its target audience. I will be the first to admit (and I've said it before) that I am far from an expert on the fantasy genre but I felt that this book had all the fundamental elements of a fantasy. A young heroine who rises to a mammoth task, another world, strange creatures, lots of things that warrant capital letters (the Halves, the Motherstone) and people wearing cloaks. But I am not able to discern if this makes it an original and unique children's fantasy, or a run-of-the-mill adventure book set on another planet.
What I liked: The land of O was beautifully described and made out to be a beautiful planet. It seemed to me reminiscent of Pandora, of Avatar fame (which I haven't seen), or Fern Gully. O was so diverse and full of different and fantastical species, the Halfmen, the Woodlanders, the Birdfolk, the Stonefolk and the Seafolk, and their quest took them to such different environments throughout the land. Susan was a worthy heroine and got appropriately drawn in to the drama and enormity of her task.
Image from here
Image from here
What I didn't like: Nick. Possibly one of the most annoying characters I have ever read. He was so full of his self importance, yet obviously an idiot (harsh?). He tried to be protective and noble but had his own agenda (of being the protective and noble) and stated the obvious ALL THE DAMN TIME!! All the big action bits were over in a couple of pages and there was always a convenient solution to the bigger challenges. I never felt the suspense, worried for the characters or wanted them to complete their task.
So... the biggest letdown for me was the memory. I think if I had finished it when I was 11 I would have just loveloveloved it. I am giving this a big yes for the 10-13 age group but sadly a no for me at this age. Maurice Gee is a New Zealand author and this book was first published in 1982. It won a few awards back in the day, but I haven't seen it in any book shops recently, nor have any of my friends read it. Though I didn't love it myself, I think this book is too good to be forgotten. I am interested to hear of anyone else out there who has read this? What did you think?