Secret Country Trilogy by Pamela Dean

December 29, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment

These books are technically young adult, but they offer a great deal to interested adults. Essentially the books are an update of Lewis’ Narnia books that subtracts the Christian allegory and adds in modern fantasy attitudes as well as a heavy dose of Shakespeare. The high concept here is that, like Lewis’ children, a group of five related kids ranging from eleven to sixteen cross over into a fantasy world but, the difference is, this fantasy world is the one they have imagined for years to the point of acting out crucial historical moments and devising languages. As such, they have knowledge of the future, since they were the ones who plotted it, but they are constrained to the roles they assigned themselves and, as children, even royal children, their influence is relatively small. From that intriguing starting point, a host of complications ensue as differences in what they imagined and what they are living prevent their knowledge from being absolute and, most interestingly, they have problems when their roles differ from their own personalities.

The writing, especially the dialogue, is sharp and often humorous. If I had to raise any complaints, the characters are a little too passive, a big battle scene is envisioned in an uncharacteristically lame manner, and the villain is ultimately defeated just a little too easily. These are very good books though, and strongly recommended to people who enjoy fantasy, especially material like Narnia. The only people I’d warn off are those who can’t tolerate prose written at a YA level or who require a lot of blood and adrenaline from their fiction.

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