Not since reading C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books have I so much enjoyed a novel written for children of all ages, especially those who have managed to preserve the infinitely curious magical child in their heart. In his `Myrddin’s Heir’ series Robin Chambers masterfully brings magic right up to date, while exciting the imagination about its long reach of influence in the past.
So far I have only read the first book, `A Wizard of Dreams,’ but am eagerly anticipating continuing the adventure throughout the rest. He prefaces the novel with this sound advice: `Love Learning; Respect Difference; Protect Your Planet.’ These tenets are firmly yet tenderly embedded in the heart of the book, the message always soundly delivered with the lightest touch.
We join Gordon at the beginning of his life, and know from the first enticing paragraph that this is an extraordinary boy. At the same time we are introduced to the mysterious Zack. Is he imaginary friend, alter ego, guardian angel, spirit guide? You will keep wondering and guessing. Zack is as integral to the plot as Gordon himself, and equally real. We come to love them both. They – and all the characters in the book – are so skilfully drawn that they take on a life of their own. We follow Gordon and Zack through his time in nursery and primary school right up to the day when he starts secondary school, just after his momentous 11th birthday when he discovers in an incredible encounter with the legendary past the extraordinary destiny lined up for a boy blessed with his extraordinary powers.
Prior to this, as we join Gordon on his everyday adventures through a boy’s young life as well as his more mystical journeying, we learn on the hoof a vast wealth of information about dinosaurs, the planet, language, literature, and magic. Robin Chambers writes in a way that inspires a delight in learning and whets the curiosity, with a trail of reminders after each chapter, which lead to extensive notes at the end of the book offering elucidation for those who want to learn more.
I quickly grew fond of Gordon, and some of the descriptions of his experiences brought tears to my eyes. For me, one of the essential marks of a good writer is that they arouse empathy for their characters. Why else would I go on reading unless I cared what happened to them, and were in some way touched by them? The issue of bullying was particularly poignant in the way that it was handled by the author. We are shown the reasons behind it as well as Gordon’s response to it, and towards the end of the book there is a resolution for the bully himself that again moved me to tears. Yet there is nothing mushy or sentimental about the story. It’s an adventure that spans space, time and other dimensions, which for a whole generation of children (including me – old enough to be Gordon’s grandmother!) is what we have come to expect. Brought up on Dr Who, Star Wars and Harry Potter, we are hungry for more magic and are ready to soar with Gordon to wherever the flights of the author’s imagination dares to take us.
I have been careful here to give nothing of the actual story away, because I want you to have the wonderful experience of reading it, to follow the sparkling threads of narrative along the magical paths that lead to the brilliantly inspiring and suspenseful conclusion… Except, it isn’t the conclusion, and as the final chapter ends we are left breathless on the brink of Gordon’s next adventure – nothing for it but to do as I did and immediately download the second book! I know already I will be entranced by the beautifully composed language as well as the twists and turns of narrative created by this most accomplished author.