Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Children’s Books: The World of Grrym: Allira’s Gift by Paul Collins and Danny Willis

When their grandfather, Fergus, disappears, Allira Hart and her brother Steven are taken to his Victorian country home by their father. Gerald Hart hasn’t seen much of his father for years and is angry with the old man for having wasted the family fortune on his crazy ideas. Like the castle. Niangula isn’t just a folly -- it’s a full-scale fortress which can be defended from the ravening hordes and it’s right in the middle of the Australian bush!

Of course, it turns out that there’s a good reason for having a fortress in the middle of the bush. Niangula is the gateway between two worlds and there are beings in the other world who would like to use it to invade.

Allira has strange powers. She has always known when something awful was going to happen -- and she has been hearing her grandfather’s voice in her head. He was, in fact, kidnapped by a bunch of troll mercenaries, who somehow managed to get past the defenses into our world and take him back into the world of Grrym, where he is the king. They did it on the orders of goblin Queen Morgassa, who had been overthrown by her subjects, with Fergus’ help, because of her tyranny.

The goblins loyal to Fergus want his granddaughter to take over and save them, since she is the only one in the family, after Fergus, to have the Sight. She is their Princess, as far as they are concerned, and has her own elite guard, even if they are so short that she has to sit down on the ground to talk to them properly. Of course, she protests that she wants to be an ordinary kid and anyway, she has to go to school, but comes good when needed.

The second half of the novel features a lot of fighting and sieges by the enemy armies as the action moves to Grrym, while at Niangula Steven is trying to find out what’s going on, family retainer Gardunk is having a hard time keeping control of Allira’s “g’loom,” a temporary illusion conjured up to replace her if Gerald returns from town, where he’s making arrangements for the children to go to school locally.

Who wouldn’t dream about being a Prince/Princess/Chosen One in another world, even if your subjects are a bunch of short, colorful pointy-eared beings? Children do. It has formed the basis of a lot of popular fiction and movies, from Star Wars to Harry Potter. As in the other stories of this genre, of course, the heroine protests that she doesn’t want to be royalty, she just wants to be an ordinary kid, but comes through when needed.

There’s enough action and humor in The World of Grrym (Five Mile Press) to keep young readers highly entertained, though the sequel had better come out quickly as the novel ends on a cliffhanger! The book is beautifully illustrated by co-author Danny Willis, whose pencil-drawn critters are reminiscent of Brian Froud in style. Despite all the goblins, trolls and giants taking part in the battles, the authors don’t forget that the story is centered around Australia. The scent of eucalyptus trees is strong, Australian animals wander about, the displaced Aboriginal spirit makes an appearance (hopefully to play a larger role in the next novel) and the bunyip plays his part in defending his home from otherworldly invaders.

This book should appeal to mid to late-primary school and early secondary students.

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Blogger aussie angel bri said...

i liked this book it was really good!

Friday, July 4, 2008 at 4:22:00 AM PDT  

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