Having already written a review of 'The Divide' - the first book of a trilogy, I thought I'd better complete the set and review the other two.
It will probably come as no surprise that I would wholeheartedly recommend reading these books in order. 'Back to the Divide' does, however, begin rather helpfully with a synopsis of what has gone before, written by 14-year-old Felix (the hero) under the heading "*To whom it may concern* In the event of my death, please read".
In the previous book, Felix's death was actually rather imminent, but in his own words :
"I used to have a heart condition, but now I'm completely better. I was cured by a spell in another world - an amazing place with no science, but lots of magic! The trouble is, when I came home, a couple of very nasty creatures from that world got into this one, and they could be seriously bad news."
The nasty creatures in question are Snakeweed, a villainous japegrin (pixie) and his sinistrom (devil-hyena) Architrex. Snakeweed's last enterprise in his own world was selling untested potions, with devastating results. Having followed Felix back across the Divide, his new 'get-rich-quick' scheme was to use magic in our world to set up a potions business, but tiring of the 'impossible paperwork' involved he has now decided he wants to go back.
However, only Felix has the correct spell for crossing the Divide - so Snakeweed comes in search of him. The only trouble is, Snakeweed contrives to turn Felix's parents to stone, and worse, anything touching the 'statues' also turns to stone, but not immediately, so an insect for example landing on the statue has a very short time to fly off and touch something else ... Felix has visions of his whole world eventually turned to stone.
He realises he has no option, he has to go back across the Divide himself to the world where magic is real, to find the countercharm, the antidote which will restore his parents - and time is of the essence.
So, about a year after his first visit, Felix is back. Things have changed - and not for the better. Fleabane is now in charge and he is proving if anything to be worse than Snakeweed. The king and queen are missing and brutality appears to be the order of the day. Having inadvertently introduced the concept of printing on his previous visit, Felix sees all around him the far-reaching effects of that action, and he doesn't like what he sees.
Before long, Felix is reunited with his best friend Betony, and our old favourite characters Ironclaw and Thornbeak. Some wonderful new characters appear in this book too - a cyclops poet (in a pink frilly dress) called Turpsik, a riddle-loving sphinx called Leona, and Nimby, the gloriously-named intelligent flying carpet.
Science and magic really don't mix. The dangers of introducing magic to his own world are clear - Felix can see all the potential for exploitation, all the damage which could be done fuelled by greed. It seems though that the dangers of introducing science to Betony's world are at least as catastrophic. This is good food for thought for children - exploring the pros and cons of introducing technology to societies not ready for it.
The urgency of Felix's quest drives the story along at a good pace, and, as with the previous book, the writing is creative, imaginative, funny and moving. The world Elizabeth Kay has conjured is wild and exciting, with adventures galore, a fantastic world to escape to.
It builds well on what has gone before, but adds plenty of new twists and turns. A really good sequel which leaves you wanting to read the final instalment.
Highly recommended - good readers of 10 upwards would handle this, though it is probably aimed more at around 12 upwards.