Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things is a coming-of-age story about childhood dreams, superstitions, insecurities, fears and fantasies. Just as a child might do in his imagination, John Connolly masterfully melds classic fairy tales with original fiction. He convincingly creates for his protagonist a vivid and troubling alternative reality, a land where David goes to escape from his new step-mother and infant half-brother in search of his dead mother, but where he discovers that he himself, not his blended family, is the obstacle to his happiness.

From the author’s official website:

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the loss of his mother. He is angry and he is alone, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother he finds that the real world and the fantasy world have begun to meld. The Crooked Man has come, with his mocking smile and his enigmatic words: 'Welcome, your majesty. All hail the new king.'
And as war rages across Europe, David is violently propelled into a land that is both a construct of his imagination yet frighteningly real, a strange reflection of his own world composed of myths and stories, populated by wolves and worse-than-wolves, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a legendary book . . .The Book of Lost Things.

Although this is my first John Connolly novel, I was not surprised to learn that he is a renowned author of mystery/crime novels, several containing paranormal overtones, and that he has also published a collection of short stories steeped in the supernatural. I originally thought that this was a book for children, but the author’s skill at describing some of the gruesome events—a huntress who grafts human torsos onto animal bodies to make the hunt more challenging, a Crooked Man who kidnaps children, harpies and half-human wolves who feed on humans—make this more of a story for adults who wish to rediscover the tales and terrors of their childhood. Imagine your worst nightmares realized, for that is what inhabits this land. With the help of several benevolent characters he meets along the way—the woodsman from Red Riding Hood and other characters inspired by fairy tales and legends—young David must confront numerous obstacles, villains and beasts in order to reach the king, whose Book of Lost Things is said to hold the secret of how to return home. Through his various trials and battles, David not only learns how to fight his opponents effectively, but also how to fight in his own inner turmoil. The reader witnesses both his journey through this magical land and David’s journey to adulthood.
If you are a sucker for good fantasy or fairy tales (and think the Brothers Grimm rather than the more recent Disney remakes), pick this one up. It will not disappoint. From the first page, you will be enthralled by Connolly’s superb writing and convincing, vivid imagination. I was impressed and plan to give his mystery novels (a genre I don't often read) a try.