The Hidden World: The Remarkable Adventures of Tom Scatterhorn by Henry Chancellor
|The Hidden World: The Remarkable Adventures of Tom Scatterhorn by Henry Chancellor|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A second book full of adventure for young Tom, which follows on with only more time-bending, planet-crossing adventure, and animated museum exhibits. This is a longer read than before, and feels like even longer at times, but is still worth a look.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 528||Date: September 2009|
Tom Scatterhorn has survived his first adventure and has been left with the inheritance of the local museum full of stuffed animals, that come to life at night, and when Tom needs help. Things might be able to settle down - he has the summer holidays with his relatives, he has the new parts of the museum to open, and his parents are working on their own science the other side of the world. All this peace is shattered when a young girl called Pearl arrives, Dorothy-like, through a storm. When they realise they share an enemy the only thing to do is to drop all ideas of a quiet time, and combine forces.
I accused the first book of being a tad overlong - not knowing then to what lengths this series was going to go. Beyond Pearl's extended prologue it takes a long time for things to happen here. This is down to the depth of the created world, I must admit - there are strange people to be befriended, stranger clues to be unravelled, and strangest of circumstances to be over-ridden, and that's before we find another time portal, and another quest for the newly-formed couple of adventurers to undertake.
The fact that this is based on some quite ridiculous hokum is a touching point - I don't want everything to sound too mundane, but the aims of the baddies and what the children have to do as a result is a little absurd. It boils down to trying too hard to get a quirkiness into this series, which has failed Henry Chancellor before.
Indeed there is too much - from shadowy pairs of agents following people, double-crossing adults, triple-crosses, bluffs (some of them from your reviewer - perhaps) - and that's while Tom is still at home. On his travels there's more, and we really can feel quite stuffed with 510pp of it all.
On the credit side the unusual world encountered is fully sustained, with a depth to the inventiveness from our author. There's no end of similar baddies, all gunning everybody and everything towards a rollicking, set piece conclusion. But am I alone in wondering just what plans they had for getting back in the first place?
I know there is a passing child wizard with seven hefty books under his belt to suggest otherwise, but I think this is too fat and bloated a read for the target audience. It's quite readable for 10 year olds, I would guess, but the vim and vigour I sought for in vain would have helped them engage. As it is it might just rest on the shelves until the reader is twelve or more, and more able to tackle such a slow-burning fantasy. There was a host of pictures here that came from other fantasy books and films, as well, so I hope it doesn't get left behind too long, else it might look stale.
Chancellor certainly can offer us a fully realised world for his heroes and heroines, and a ride for them that involves a host of ups and downs, but this middle book of his trilogy needs tightening. Fans who disagree with me will be licking their lips at the darkness of the ending, and possibilities left hanging before the concluding volume.
I must thank Oxford's kind people for my review copy.
For more adventurous world-visiting, this audience would enjoy starting at The Merchant of Death (Pendragon) by D J MacHale.
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