Wednesday 28 October 2009

Review: The Hidden World by Henry Chancellor

Tom is back at the Scatterhorn Museum, looking forward to spending some time there while his parents are away on one of their adventures. But an unexpected visitor called Pearl Smoot throws everything into disarray when she arrives with an incredible story. She says Tom's old enemy, Don Gervase Askary, has taken her father and brother - and what's more, she claims he has Tom's parents too. Together Tom and Pearl set out on a perilous journey to rescue their families - a journey that will take them in and out of time, to exotic foreign lands, and finally into the secret hidden world of Scarazand, stronghold of the terrifying Don Gervase himself....

If you have already read my musings on the first book in the Tom Scatterhorn trilogy ("The Museum's Secret") then you will be in no doubt that I was awaiting the sequel, "The Hidden World", with a large amount of excitement. I even made sure I had finished the book I was already reading so I could dive into this one as soon as it arrived on release day.

The synopsis had already created a feeling of heightened anticipation: new characters; more time travel; a new world with an exotic name; and, of course, the return of the sinister Don Gervase Askery and his creepy and increasingly psychotic daughter. I would like to be able to say that this anticipation was rewarded with a book equal to the first in the trilogy, but sadly I was left feeling slightly disappointed. Don't get me wrong - it is certainly not a poor book and I would still strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first. I just felt that there was far too much crammed into the book, which is pretty hefty anyway at 500+ pages. This may cause easily distracted readers to give up rather than persevere through what is actually an exciting storyline overall.

Henry Chancellor obviously has an incredible imagination, and the lengths he goes to to provide vidid, detailed descriptions of the book's many eccentric characters and places like Scarazand and the creatures Tom and Pearl discover there really bring the story to life, but at the same time can lead to a feeling that sometimes the narrative is moving too slowly. So much so that I personally feel that this is more suitable for boys of 12+ which is a pity as the story would definitely have appeal to boys a couple of years younger.

Without giving too much away, the ending is darker than the previous book and leaves you with the promise of even more menace and adventure to come. If Henry Chancellor can just work at making the story move at a faster pace throught the middle section then the concluding book in this trilogy will certainly be a must-read. Personally, I am really looking forward to seeing how he brings the many strands of the story together to come to a final, satisfying conclusion.

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