Review Blog

Jan 07 2010

Arrival by Charlotte McConaghy

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(The Strangers of Paragor, Book 1 ) Black Dog Books, 2009.
(Ages 12+) Six young humans leap through a portal into another world, one they know nothing about, one assumes to find out what lies on the other side. They land in various places in the other world; two, Mia and Jack don't take part in book 1, but will pop up later. Since this is fantasy the world into which they are plunged is one of kings, princes, princesses, elves, phaeries, amazons, a smattering of gods from various ancient civilizations and of course the odd evil power-hungry magician.
The world is composed of three major countries all separated by sea; Cynis Witron, Uns Lapodis and Lapis Matyr as well as a couple of minor ones. Peace has prevailed over the countries for generations, but Leostrialhas somehow taken over Lapis Matyr with a small band of followers and no one seems to know where he has come from. With the arrival of the six (less two) an ancient prophecy seems about to be fulfilled.
The story line is not new, nor is the climax of the book, nor the final victory after a bloody battle. There are a few too many unanswered questions, why on earth did Queen Columba save Satine from her execution? Indeed why on earth did King Gaddemar order her execution? There is also a problem with the characters themselves, Jane in particular, who is the strong female protagonist, is abrasive, priggish and unlikeable. Fern a half elvish prince who falls in love with Jane (who knows why?) is typically heroic but the romantic bond is too juvenile and frustrating to be believable.
McConaghy is a young writer who has drawn her inspiration from many sources. There are parts reminiscent of The lion, the witch and the wardrobe, the Indiana Jones stories and Blyton's Famous Five tales. I've no doubt the story line will appeal to girls of a certain age, especially the romantic interludes, and there are certainly moments when the action moves at a cracking pace, but there is a lack of cohesion to the whole story. It seems to have grown like Topsy and needs more rigorous editing to have it reach the widest possible audience.
Mark Knight

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