Saturday, February 27, 2016


Perverse fathers, of course!


An extremely interesting book for children and young teenagers. It associates the mystery of an old house, which is haunted in a way, but not so much by ghosts as by wizards and witches from several past generations, with the fantasy of portals opening onto multiple worlds and universes by some kind of tunneling instant travel.  At the same time the main heroes are teenagers between 11 and 13, three of them since three is magic, and magic there is, black and white, evil and good, aggressive and protective, with what’s more a grandmother overlooking the whole business.

Of course some of these themes are quite common in that magical fantasy literature for teenagers but there are enough twists and bends and crossroads, often badly crossed by accident and on purpose, to keep your attention awake and your concentration alert. If you want at least. There is of course a phenomenal fantastic attic that is just as secret as it is miraculous. There is a cemetery that is just as gloomy as it is epiphanic. Salvation always comes from the dreariest and direst situations and locales. Just what you need to give you sweet nightmares.

Then you can wonder about the interest of that magic world beyond the portal if the portal has to be locked up and kept closed forever. What a shame! When I was following the kids in the secret passages in the old mansion and discovering that the end of it was in the wardrobe of the uncle, I thought we were going to be able to shift to some other world at will like in the Narnia Chronicles, though it was upside down, the end of the passage in this tale being similar to the beginning of the passage in Narnia. And sure enough there is no permanent and recurrent passage from this world to other worlds.

Though the forces of evil were contained in and restrained to the universe beyond the portal, that other world was not homogeneously evil or controlled by these evil forces. The evil forces controlled one planet, could go around in all the other planets they exploited but these other planets were also autonomous, free in a way, especially when they could use magic to resist and even counter the evil forces. Actually that is reassuring for the poor young readers since they can mentally merge with the evil forces, which are funny, identify with the good forces and the kids, which are very pleasant, and at the same time know that all these adventures are not next door, not in our street, not even in pour city or country.

The final touch for me has to do with the family structure. Father and grandfather are out or evil. One uncle survives that wreckage of a family betrayed by one man a long time ago. The son and heir of the family is confronted to his desire to find his father who abandoned him after his birth and the death of his mother in childbirth. At the same time he discovers his father has chosen the wrong side, and that is making the son angry and forcing the son to reject the father without even telling him he is his son. The son rejects the father just the same way the father rejected the son when the grandmother refused to use her magic to save his wife.

That sounds a lot like a recomposed family with all kinds of difficult relations between the generations, between parents and children, though the most negative side seems to be fathers or father-figures. Even the uncle of Jack, the main character, is shown as not exactly very swift since he leads young teenagers into using dynamite to destroy the magic portal in the western gardens, a dangerous suggestion both because in the hands of children and because of the magic behind the portal. Dynamite and young children or dynamite and magic are not easy pairs in everyday life.

Altogether the book should be interesting for its targeted teenage audience, creative and dynamic enough to captivate them.


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