Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: The Bell Between Worlds, by Ian Johnstone

book cover

Title: The Bell Between Worlds
Author: Ian Johnstone
Series: The Mirror Chronicles, #1
Format: Signed Hardback
My rating: 4 / 5

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A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…

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

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 magic, 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: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall...

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

I received this book as part of a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.

When the sun sets, it merely sleeps, to rise another day;

a path that ends, ends not, but leads back from whence it came;

thus at this our journey’s end is another, just beginning.

-- The Bell Between Worlds, by Ian Johnstone

The Bell Between Worlds begins in our world, following a twelve year boy, Sylas Tate, who discovers a new shop called The Shop of Things when he is running errands for his brutish Uncle. There he meets Mr Zhi, who shows Sylas the unusual treasures the shop holds, entrusting the boy with a precious, bejewelled book called the Samarok, thus marking the beginning of Sylas’s tale. With the chime of the Passing Bell we are thrown into a parallel world, known as the Other, where magic abounds and untamed beasts still roam. He begins his quest in the hope of finding his mother, but as with all journeys, there are usually a few twists along the way…

This book reminds me of The Night Circus, certainly in comparison with the writing style, and the depth of detail present. Thankfully, here I think it’s a lot better. The characters are likeable and well thought out, and the depth of care put into world building is brilliant. Occasionally I do love a deeply descriptive book, and I definitely found it here. I cannot fault the writing style; it is so lyrical and beautiful to read. The detail in the imagery is so intricate you can’t help but be captured and wrapped up in the world.

I will say I fear that its greatest strength, could also pose to be its greatest weakness. So it is with a word of caution; I think you need to be in the right mood to tackle this book – certainly in the right frame of mind to expect detailed prose. While beautiful, I did find that after the half way mark, they began to bog the story down, hampering a quicker flow of the plot. The pacing of the book almost felt leashed at times, with the story needing to speed on ahead, but unable to with the dense images in the way. I feel at times that even if only half the detail was present, we would still be left with the same impressions, and a quicker, sharper story to boot.

I won’t go into any detail, but I loved the links between druidic history, Stonehenge and stone circles, and a little sprinkling of Ancient Egyptian themes (Thoth, Merimmat – Ma’at; the Temple of Isia [or Isis – the Egyptian goddess of magic, such a nice touch I though]) throughout. It gave a link between the book’s world and our history, anchoring it with our past. Also a yin and yang element, of everything being balanced, and parts of a whole… just… I loved the depth I could take away from the book. It was completely unexpected and enjoyable on many levels.

I find this a little hard to accurately translate into a star rating. I hover between like and really like, as there are many points in the book that fall into both categories, so 3.5 stars could be a more accurate representation of how I feel. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and will look forward to continuing on with the story if/when the next is published.

Oh, on a side note, if the Groundrush was a theme park ride, I’d be first in the queue!

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