© Jonathan Stroud, cover art © Greg Call.
Stroud is the author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, which I read and enjoyed a great deal. I found this book good, though not as original or inventive as Bartimaeus. In fact, I suspect it may have been written first, and was pulled from the trunk (that mythical place where an author’s early unpublished works are supposed to reside) when Bartimaeus did well. The fact that it’s published by Miramax Books, no doubt connected to Miramax Films, is perhaps another clue about the sale.
But enough of that, this is a good fantasy in the English tradition with the central menace an ancient Dragon lying asleep beneath a ridge of hills and country towns, sending up dreams to influence the people who live there in dark ways. Michael is one who gets caught in the Dragon’s thoughts and gains frightening new powers that greatly worry his brother and sister. The three live together, though old enough to be on their own, due to straightened finances, outside of the main town.
In the town of Fordrace, Tom, the pastor of St. Wyndham’s, the town church, has uncovered an ancient, broken cross with unusual carvings relating to the mysterious Dragon. When the broken part is stolen, he gets caught in the middle of the mysteries and troubles surrounding Michael and his siblings. As he begins to research local legends, he uncovers many dark secrets of the area’s past. Some of the town leaders, like Mr. Cleever, seem to know a lot more than they’re telling, and are very interested in Micheael’s powers. Before long they’re after him to join their sinister brotherhood. As things get more desperate, Tom the pastor and Michael’s brother Stephen try to do battle with the Dragon’s acolytes for Michael’s soul, but are soon struggling to save their own lives.
As I said, a good read, and one I can recommend, though I kept being reminded of other books while I was reading it.