The Toy Sorcerer by Laura Hart
Review by KD Berry
The Toy Sorcerer is the first book of a trilogy aimed at young adult fantasy readers. The main protagonist is Alice, a 14-year-old girl who has suffered a family tragedy and settles in a new house in the country with her father, where she meets Leona, an elderly woman who impresses Alice with her insight and a little magic, for she is a Wiccan. She enlists Alice's help in rescuing her long-lost apprentice, Magog, who is trapped in the Dream Realms, a place where people go in their dreams, but which is also populated by a tremendous variety of fantastical creatures and characters, including the sorcerer Merlin. However, Alice becomes trapped in the Dream Realms herself, and subsequently embroiled in an archetypical war between good and evil.
Most of the story takes place in the Dream Realms, following Alice's quest to find and rescue Magog, and her adventures with the unusual creatures she meets and befriends. The story is much more than a fantasy plotline, however; the character of Alice is delineated in a realistic and empathetic way that pulls the reader through the story with her, and when Alice's journey forces her to face some difficult facts and memories, the reader shares her pain. Alice is a character with psychological depth.
The story itself is engaging and fast-paced, with spots of humour, well-defined characters and dialogue that sounds very natural. What I enjoyed most was the wonderfully evocative descriptive writing. In this regard, I think the author demonstrated a gift for storytelling that really puts the reader into the heart of the story with the main characters.
It is hard to find faults in this book... I did trip over occasional punctuation errors that another proofreading might have found, and I did find the ending a little unsatisfying as it left the story hanging (though of course this was probably to be expected, and it whets the appetite for the second installment). There is a little swearing also (though nothing gratuitous). These, however, are rather minor, nit-picky things which do not detract from what is a well-written book.
At times I was reminded of the world of Narnia, though the writing style is quite different (and better, in my opinion, than the Narnia books). Overall, I found The Toy Sorcerer very enjoyable and appreciated the author's descriptive prose and natural dialogue. I think this is a very good read for young adults and adults alike.
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