Alexander exhales a well-aimed breath of fresh air into the fantasy genre.
Writing this gives me great, great pleasure. Marcus Alexander, whom I interviewed many years ago - when he was still a self-published author - has been picked up by Puffin Books, who are republishing his magnificent Who is Charlie Keeper? as Keeper of the Realms this month. I can't think of another author who deserved it more, the writing and presentation of WhoisCK? set a benchmark for what self-published authors should look to achieve.
But first a little back story, which I will keep short… It was about three ago that a parent emailed the site and asked if a certain book called Who is Charlie Keeper? was suitable for their child. I had no idea, I had never even heard of it, so I got in touch with the author himself to discuss the matter with the result being that both daughter and my good self received a copy of a fantastic little book to read. The parents main concern, by the way, was that graffiti artists had taken to recreating the book's artwork in public places illegally. You can read more about this in the interview from 2009.
But back to the book itself!
When I published my glowing review of Who is Charlie Keeper? I was dismayed to receive, only a few days later, a reader review from a certain Jack which read, "Is this a joke? I got this off this site's recommendation, and it is truly one of the worst books I've ever read. The punctuation is horrendous, dialogue is ridiculous, and the writing is just plain bad. It's full of unlikable stereotypical characters, un-original situations, lots of shouting, running, name calling and insults, unnecessary violence, distracting dialects, painfully unfunny jokes and comedic situations, and foot stomping. It must be a joke, because to rate this on the same level as Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Robin Hobb and a great many more is laughable."
Ouch. I must admit that I began to have doubts about whether what I found enjoyable really matched what the young adult crowd were looking for. Was I both completely out of touch and unable to distinguish between a good and bad book?
Luckily more reader reviews began to pour in, mainly I believe in response to Jack, "This is partly in response to Jack's review and also my own thoughts on Who is Charlie Keeper? Firstly let me just say that I thought WhoisCK? was a brilliant story, I study at Kensington & Chelsea College and as a student I might not be the richest person and cannot always afford to buy books direct from the web more often than not having to buy mine second hand so when I say that I treasure and value my copy of WhoisCK? know that I genuinely mean it. I have never read Ursula Le Guin but I have read Tolkien and even had to study part of it in my Eng. Lit. classes as secondary school, I do think WhoisCK? is a better and more entertaining story particularly in its written form. True, Tolkien makes an awesome storyteller and the films were out of the world and I would never, ever say otherwise. However the truth of the matter is that Tolkien was an author who was heavy handed with his writing, let us be honest his method of writing prose isn't always the most exciting and I think can get carried away with descriptions, detouring away from the main thread of the story. The point that I am trying to make in my convoluted way is I think the writing style of WhoisCK? is easier to lose yourself in than Tolkien. As for whether or not the story itself is better or not is I think entirely up to the individual to decide. Also of note Tolkien initially received terrible and mocking reviews when his work was first published in 1954, it was only after time that people became more accepting of the genre and his books grew to find acclaim. Again I'm not so ignorant as to say that WhoisCK? is a legendary book but I do think that it is very attuned to today's culture. I love the way the characters speak, I greatly admire how Charlie Keeper tackles the obstacles placed in front of her and I appreciate how quickly the book moves forward. Everyone is entitled to there own views, everyone should be allowed to approach subjects as individuals. These are my mine. I am tempted to give WhoisCK? 10 out of 10 to balance Jack's 1 out of 10 as I think that he has acted far too harshly however I shall go with honesty and give WhoisCK? a 8.5 out of 10."
Phew! And I think Margaret got it spot on. Ratings can be peculiar things, for example, I think that The Lord of the Rings and The Gruffalo are both 10-star books but they can't really be held up together and compared can they? I think that WhoisCK? deserved such a high rating from me as I thought it to be perfect for today's young adult audience. Here is what I originally said about it, "A female hero... A villain that comes from THE WEST! Surely Marcus Alexander will be forced to fall on a magically imbued sword as penance for this outrageous break with fantasy genre tradition? Luckily the answer is no, Alexander exhales a well-aimed breath of fresh air into the stuffy, often male dominated format that has held the fantasy genre back for so many years. JK Rowling picked up the genre and took it into a wide new world with the phenomenon that was Harry Potter; books such as Who is Charlie Keeper? will keep the momentum going as fantasy literature becomes a form that can be read and enjoyed by both sexes, regardless of age."
And so, although Jack's comments should be respected, I will just share a few more snippets from the many reader reviews that followed.
"I wish there were more stories like this, it feels real and isn't condescending to teenagers like some other books can be. Goooooooooo Charlie Keeper!!!!!!!!!!!!!" shouted Curtis from Streatham.
"I thought the book was a great read and one which I recommend people to read. The book kept me on my toes from beginning to end and I only wish the author will make another book as soon as possible. I believe this book was a magnificent adventure book, one which I hold highly amongst the Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings books. In addition the art work was absolutely excellent," said Abdi from London calmly.
"Fantastic book!! I can't wait for the sequel. I love the idea of how the author draws your attention with a female-hero destined to save the world. Love the special art-work, magical themes and characters like Mr Crow & Bane. Definitely a must-read, fantastic book," enthused Dennis from London.
"I think this is a cult classic... although when the author explains how green something is he really goes into one and over-explains but apart from that the book is great; well written. I got my copy as I saw a video review on YouTube... amazing art work... I hear you can get a poster from Amazon as well..." proclaimed Cherry from London.
So I will repeat my sentiments from three years ago, you simply must go out and buy Keeper of the Realms, the story and artwork are excellent and they compliment each other in the same way as Chris Riddell 's artwork and Paul Stewart's storytelling do on their wonderful Edge Chronicles. The improvements that were needed in the initial book lay in the editing department, which is of course always the most difficult and expensive problem that self-published authors face. But now that the mighty Puffin behind the book readers will find that all these issues have been ironed out and the book is better than ever! Book of the Month for 2009 and and 2012!
Review by Floresiensis
6 positive reader review(s) for Crow's Revenge
After several incident-filled years of travelling the armpits of the world Marcus Alexander decided to pack in all serious attempts at reaching maturity and instead embraced the much more suitable world of parchment scribblin [...]
Lora from Canada
It's the best book ever what are you talking about?
Rosie from America
Amazing read I couldn't put it down it thought it would be childish but there were so many plot twists that I became a character in the book.
Alys from England
This book is amazing and is one of my favorite books that I have read so far. Marcus Alexander puts so much detail in his sentences and uses his knowledge from travelling the world to create many new aspects to include in Bellania.
Ayman Meijssen from Muscat Oman
I have the book and it was so good that I read it in one day.
Sheriff from UK
Great book, amazing language. I never wanted to stop reading.
Nemo from England
This is the best book. The mythical creatures and the things that have inspired you - that's the best bit because Bellenia is the best fantasy. Your books are easy to read plus it is so imaginative. So awesome!
Nicholas from Australia
Loved it! Especially the end although, I know it's just nitpicking but it's not really "Crow's Revenge" I think it would be better in the sequel
Nancy from Hounslow
I liked this book so it's definitely a KEEPER lol
Bill (William!) from UK
I missed Who is Charlie Keeper but I did hear of it so I'm very glad I got Crow's Revenge. Simply stunning fantasy so 10 stars plus :)
9.7/10 from 10 reviews