I have now read three books from the wonderful Myrddin’s Heir series and I am struck with a persistent speculation. J.K. Rowling had to submit her early Harry Potter MS to a significant number of publishers, enduring rejection after rejection, until Bloomsbury finally took a chance on her. I don’t know if Chambers has searched for a publisher with the same tenacity but I do know that this series has the potential to become a phenomenon to match the Harry Potter series. The general thrust of the stories is, of course, quite different from Rowling’s, but the imagination, the magic, the wild rides, are of the same ilk; the writing, easily accessible to the adolescent reader, is multi-layered and entrancing; and the stories are every bit as enchanting. If there is a publisher of children’s books reading this, remember what happened to Bloomsbury at a time when their finances were failing. Or if you are a teacher, stop and think about the dearth of reading in today’s society. This series, properly used in schools, could breathe a love of reading into a whole new generation. The notes at the end of each chapter alone offer a wealth of literary and historical knowledge that must serve to broaden minds starved of culture and refinement by the aridity that prevails in today’s school curricula.
‘In the Nick of Time’ is an erudite and creative mix of childlike imagination, mythical characters of the most fearsome kind, and a magical tale underpinned by an encyclopaedic knowledge of history, literature, myth and legend. It is a story that is bound to capture, enrapture, enthral and educate the pre-adolescent mind at which it is primarily aimed. It begins where ‘When the Cat’s Away…’ left off. From the outset the reader is aware of a low ominous rumble of evil intensity as the dark side begins to muster its forces for a major onslaught against the fabulous four and their paranormal guardians. Ado dreams of a terrible revenge but unlike Enzo before him, he plots slowly and with Machiavellian intensity. Even more terrifying is the fury of the monstrous Carman who can scarce contain her screaming rage as she plans not only to unleash her grotesque hybrids on the unsuspecting four but the very destruction of humankind.
How deluded they are. While the nefarious machinations of the evildoers lurk menacingly in the background, Gordon and his friends set out to right more than a few wrongs. Anyone who has ever been bullied will absolutely love these little vignettes of justice and sweet revenge. With power that is off-the-scale, the team wreak terrible havoc on senior members of The Consortium. These acts of retribution reach a climax when Gordon, more in sorrow than in anger, inflicts a violent, even brutal, punishment upon Lady Hortense. The woman’s dire incapacity to see beyond the end of her imperious nose renders her bloody chastisement inevitable and, despite some reservations, the team, and all present, ultimately agree that this was a consummation devoutly to be wished.
I cannot end without reference to the understated but often hilarious humour that pervades the story, even at the most tense of moments. And the occasional deliberate mangling of Shakespeare offers laugh-out-loud moments to the adult mind familiar with the bard. (Thaw and resolve itself into a blob, indeed!)
Meticulously edited and formatted, ‘In the Nick of Time’ is a wonderfully entertaining story, even for adolescent readers unconcerned with edification. I urge teachers, parents, young readers, to discover this series and thus afford themselves hours of reading pleasure with the almost surreptitious added benefit of refinement and enlightenment.