The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
Quercus, 2018. ISBN 9781786540515
(Age: 9-12) Themes: Good and Evil, Fantasy. The year is 1945 and Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry have survived the London Blitz and experienced the destructive effects of the bombings on their schools and housing. They are sent off to the countryside while their parents search for a new residence. Secretly, they have been chosen to participate in the classified 'Magician Project' to discover if magic is real and can be used as a powerful force by the Government.
On arrival, young Larry disappears in the old country house and discovers a secret carved wooden door leading into The Library. Here there are three sections of books, Read, Unread and Never Read. Of course, he's selects a book and is swept into a magical kingdom led by a fairy knight flying on a tiger-winged butterfly. His siblings do not believe his wild tales about the magical kingdom, preferring to swim and explore the countryside around Barfield Hall. When Evelyn discovers the secret portal, she chooses a different section and is drawn into the Never Reads world - Folio, ruled by evil secretary Jana and her silver robots. Evie makes a pact to return with the rest of her siblings to assist in the evil plans to destroy the fantasy characters and fantasy world.
Torday includes so many recognisable elements, blood drops revealing hidden texts, giant talking trees, assistance by fairy tale creatures, here the Three Bears help in their rescue. His central theme differs from that of C. S. Lewis, the battle is fought between knowledge and imagination: Jana believes in a factual world filled with numbers. She delights in turning, giants, fairies and other magical creatures into strings of data. There is the difficult and dangerous quest to find the Magician. The author imbues the characters with a deeper sense of self, Evelyn - Evie struggles with her allegiances and her trouble memories of her school being bombed.
In The Lost Magician, Guardian children's fiction prize winner Piers Torday's decision to pay homage to C. S. Lewis and his Narnia Chronicles, delivers a very familiar format. He has added Tolkien touches, included recognisable fantasy characters and common fantasy tropes. This is an interesting junior novel, one for fans of the genre.