History lecturer Andrew Brandon Hope has just inherited his grandfather’s house and field of care – but at the beginning of this book neither he nor we have any idea what the latter really entails. About a year later, as he’s beginning to settle into the house 12 year old Aidan Cain turns up on his doorstep. Aidan’s grandmother has just died & she’d told him if he was ever in trouble he should go to Andrew’s grandfather – so here he is. The rest of the story revolves around Andrew’s field of care, Aidan’s parentage, and the magic they both have (but that Andrew had forgotten due to being concerned with being a grown-up).
This book was published in 2010, the year before Diana Wynne Jones’s death, and I don’t think I’d realised before that she was still writing as recently as that. She was one of my favourite authors when I was a kid but I never ended up buying many of her books because they were all in the school library. In fact I think I only own Archer’s Goon, but my favourites were the Chrestomanci books and Homeward Bounders. I was actually looking in the children’s section of the library to see if Homeward Bounders was on the shelf, but this was the only one of hers that was there – so I picked it up coz I’d not read it before.
If I’d been the right age for the book, I’d’ve loved it – as an adult it felt a little too pat at times and everything wrapped up rather easily. Which is not a criticism as such, just an acknowledgement it’s a children’s book I’m reading without the rosy glow of nostalgia 🙂 The tone of the book is fairly light-hearted – most of the secondary characters are broadly drawn & comic. And the antagonist is just sinister enough that you can tell, without being truly scary.
Which all sounds like it wasn’t a good book, but it was – it was a lot of fun to read. I liked the dopplegangers with one from the fairy world & the human world. I liked the servants Andrew inherits along with the house – a housekeeper and a gardener, a comic pair who’re quite determined to make sure that Andrew behaves as they think he should, but also both have their roles to play in the events of the plot. Amusingly both surnamed Stock, as are many in the village, it’s almost as if it’s full of stock types … 😉 The one thing I didn’t entirely like was the final reveal about Aidan’s father – it felt like it grew out of the story, in that the clues were all there, but the relationship it implied it didn’t sit well with me.
So overall, fun, but probably better if you’re 10 or 11 years old.