A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
When Andrew Hope’s magician grandfather dies, he leaves his house and field-of-care to his grandson who spent much of his childhood there. Andrew has forgotten much of this, but he remembers the very colourful stained-glass window in the kitchen door, which it is important to protect. Into this mix comes young Aidan Cain, who turns up from his foster home asking for safety. Exactly who he is and why he’s there is unclear, but there is a strong connection between the two and a mystery to be solved.
This is an enjoyable read, in spite of the fact of it being a children’s book. I can’t say it gripped me (but it would probably grip a child, says she knowing absolutely nothing about children …) and I didn’t rush back to it during the gaps in life when I wasn’t reading it, but it certainly caught my interest and even made me smile now and again, and I was engaged enough to finish it.
The writing is smooth and assured, and I think it’s that which kept me in place until the end. That and the characters, who are great, frankly. I very much enjoyed Andrew who is puzzled by his unexpected inheritance and has to come to terms with the role of magic in his life if he’s to be able to cope with the new turn of events at all. Next to him, Aidan provides a sparky counterpart and the essential young person’s viewpoint as to what might actually be happening. Both characters share the main role in the telling of the story, so it’s an interesting mix of adult and child voices, though the older Andrew understands more of what is going on.
I also, as a long-term wearer of glasses, naturally appreciated the role played by spectacles in the book, and the way it denotes character and the application, or otherwise, of magic:
Aidan stared at Andrew with his glasses in his hand. Seen by his naked eyes, this man was not really mild and sheeplike at all. He had power, great and kindly power. Aidan saw it blazing around him. Perhaps he could be some help after all.
Glasses are indeed a barrier to the world, you know; it’s why I love them so much. I also like the way that Andrew takes his pair off to clean them when he’s performing magic. Really, I must remember that little trick. Anyway, alongside Andrew and Aidan, we have the idiosyncrasies of the Stocks (definitely not related to each other) who help and hinder the running the house, plus essential emotional and comic support from the beautiful Stashe and her father Tarquin. It’s a lively household, believe me, and all the better for it. Against them, we have the strange and magical creatures who are determined to kidnap Aidan, but who can’t quite manage it as they’re not really sure what his name is and, besides, no-one will invite them into the house. And there’s also the altogether darker and far more dangerous Mr Brown in the neighbouring estate, determined to steal Andrew’s field-of-care from him and set up his own empire of magic.
The plot’s magnificent, but surprisingly subtle. It definitely keeps things rolling along, even though there were quiet patches, sometimes long ones, in the text to enable other discoveries and acquaintances to be made. There are also moments of good dramatic tension and fear however, such as the first meeting with the evil Mr Brown, or the moment when Andrew inadvertently invites the magic creatures inside the house:
Stashe knocked at the door and sang out, “May I come in, Andrew?”
“Yes, of course,” Andrew said, laying the letters down.
“Thank you,” she said, not from the door but from the open French windows. “We have to be invited in, you know.”
She was not Stashe.
I genuinely jumped at that point and had to read on.
There were a couple of issues that I did find irritating: it annoyed me that Andrew and Aidan both start with an ‘A’ and therefore more than once I needed to backtrack just to make sure the scene I was reading involved who I thought it did; there are a few occasions where point of view chops and changes within scenes, which I hate but children probably wouldn’t even notice it. I’m just obsessive about that sort of stuff, sadly. In addition, I did get rather bamboozled about the seemingly complex magic rules and explanations, but perhaps I’m simply too old to understand them. Oh, and I thought the book ended too abruptly. There needed to be a final scene including Aidan in which he’s told the information that Andrew has just discovered and has time to respond, positively, to that. I missed having it to read.
Those are all my relatively minor niggles here really, and they certainly didn’t stop me reading or appreciating both the tale and the telling. So whilst this book is an enjoyable read for adults, at its heart it’s a very good children’s fantasy book indeed. I only wish I was young enough to fully appreciate it.
Happy Reads Rating: 6 out of 10. A respectable mark
Literary Rating: 7 out of 10. Quite good stuff
Enchanted Glass, Harper Collins 2010 ISBN: 978 000 732080 6
[Anne is always partial to pretty-coloured glass. For her own particular brand of magic and mayhem, please click here.]