The Waking World by Tom Huddleston

Rating 8.7/10
Fluidly written with balanced and rounded characters.

A Recommended Book of the Month

The Waking World is the debut novel of author, musician and journalist Tom Huddleston. I found it to be a charming book (set in North Yorkshire where the author grew up) which read fluidly and was populated with nicely balanced and rounded characters. The plot was always interesting and consistently developing while offering all the ingredients that will surely satisfy its young-adult target audience.

Here's the synopsis:

The Island is in peril. For years the Marauders have raided along the coast, carrying off goods and cattle. Now they're growing bolder, striking further inland, even taking slaves to work their black ships. An invasion is imminent.

As the son of a wealthy Law, young Aran should be safe: the underground farmstead of Hawk's Gross lies miles from the sea, and even the killing winds that sweep down from the moors can't penetrate those solid steel gates. But Aran doesn't want to be safe, he wants to be a warrior, whatever his parents might say. When he meets a mysterious stranger, Aran's world changes forever. Can he fulfil his destiny, and turn back the Marauder tide before the Island is overwhelmed?

To give you a better idea of what the book is like, and what it is all about, I would ask you to think of the Arthur and Merlin legends and imagine them happening in a not too distant future after a cataclysmic event has led to the population of the UK reverting back to a way of living reminiscent of medieval times. And this is why the book is so much fun - it takes an extremely well known legend and reimagines it into what is really a post-apocalyptic (sort of) setting.

As with any new fantasy book it takes time to grow accustomed to the peoples, the customs, cultures and unfamiliar name and locations. But once this was achieved I was able to relax and fully immerse myself in the story. Although Aran is the story's lead it is Peregrine who steals the spotlight. Who is he? How does he know so much about the world before it fell? How come he is so proficient a fighter? It was these questions that kept me reading and the chapters in which he appeared were always my favourites.

The other fantasy works that I was reminded of mostly when reading The Waking World were Robin Hobb's Farseer books (the Red Ship Raiders being an immediate thought as they carry a similar threat to the Marauders) and Raymond E. Feist's wonderful Magician, more in the atmosphere it manages to create.

I finished the book a couple of weeks ago and I was definitely impressed and its events have stayed in my mind clearly since. I have a feeling that the next book might well be the one that wins me over completely, much as was the case with the Farseer books, and I look forward to reading book two, which I believe the author is currently working on. I would definitely recommend The Waking World to young-adults upwards who have previously enjoyed works by Hobb or Feist, or of course T. H. White's The Once and Future King, which is of course a significant inspiration for this novel.

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