Monday, 16 November 2015

The Bell Between Worlds (Mirror Chronicles No 1) by Ian Johnstone


Half of your soul is missing.
The lost part is in the mirror.
And unless Sylas Tate can save you, you will never be whole again.

Harper Collins 2015
511 pages in paperback
Cover art by Richard Jones and Elizabeth Huseyin

Summary from the publisher's website
Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for the nature-influenced magic of the Fourth Way, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place.

Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas as to the true nature of the Other. As violence looms and the stakes get ever higher, Sylas must seek out a girl called Naeo who might just be the other half of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall…
******
Reviewed by K. M. Lockwood

As you can see from the cover, we have a boy for a central character in an adventure on the grand scale. Without too many spoilers, we begin with a light-hearted glimpse of a mistreated orphan not entirely unlike J.K. Rowling. Matters become darker and more intriguing as we learn Silas has been deceived about his mother. There’s a hint of Philip Pullman’s Will here.
However the summoning of the central character by the chime of a giant bell is powerful and different. (The only thing I can think of remotely like it is with Empress Jade of Charn in C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Magician’s Nephew’). Then we get an involving and immersive contrast of cultures. Two worlds intersect: one of magic and one of science.
Not your bog standard average sub-Tolkien universe.
We encounter dreadful monsters and it zips along like a nightmarish video game. There are striking locations, mysterious forms of magic and some extraordinary mentors, both male and female, for Silas to deal with. For me, one of the highlights is his developing friendship with the sparky Simia. There’s a fine variety of characters throughout, both human and not-so-human. 
The novel ends with an exciting escape (I can’t say for whom) but there’s clearly more to come in Book 2. 
If you want a full-on big-scale immersive fantasy with lots going off and much at stake, then this series looks as if it should do the trick.

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