© Eva Ibbotson.
I’ve seen this fantasy novel written for children in the bookstores for some years, it was first published in 2004, and didn’t pick it up because it sounded a bit too much like Harry Potter. Finally bought it used, and now realize the similarities are there, but slight. Yes, it begins with a gateway to a fantasy realm hidden in King’s Cross railway station in London, and has a protagonist stolen as an infant and raised in London by horrible parents, but that’s about it for the comparison.
Ibbotson’s tone is lighter, at times whimsical, and she finds a lot in her characters that is amusing, whether the horrible ones like the ultra-spoiled London boy Raymond Trottle, or the plucky girl from the fantasy world who happens to be from a family of Hags, but is not very good at her inherent scariness. The plot draws its tension from the idea that the hidden doorway to this wonderful fantasy world only opens for a week every nine years. The stolen infant, the son of that realm’s king and queen, must be found and returned to them, so when the door opens again, a team is sent to our London to find him: a dottering wizard, an invisible giant, a plant goddess and the young Hag Odge. They soon befriend young Ben, a servant in the Trottle home, and with the help of their own magic and the remaining magical creatures of London, try to win back the stolen boy, Raymond.
Good characters, entertaining if rather lightweight story, but not a bad read. Recommended.