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I was bought this book by my foster mother a fairly long time ago (I was about 14 I think) and I really liked it, in fact I loved it. I re-read it so many times that my poor old paperback is nearly falling apart. Recently I picked it up again, although mainly out of a need for something comforting and from a place which I still call home even if I don't live there anymore. I did however read it with something like a sense of dread because I know how much your taste can change over many years, and I really didn't want to read it to find that I hated it! Luckily, this was not an issue.
This book really does remind me of 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis, except without the religious references and metaphors and, if I can say this without being stoned to death or other such punishments, much better written. It is almost a modern version of this literature classic with similarities such as an evil witch who rules the world, the children being brought into the world, the snowy frozen world that has been enforced by the Witch and the underground resistance that has grown up over the many, many years. However, the children were dragged into the world instead of coming of their own free will and there are only two children as main characters; Rachel and Eric. Children have been dragged into the World by the Witch for centuries upon end as she has tried to find the one who can end her exile, and Rachel and Eric are just the latest two who were dragged in while their father desperately tried to save them. At the beginning of the book their father is left looking at the hand which had let go of his daughter when she most needed him, cursing it and crying as he doesn't know whether he will ever see his children again.
This is the story of two children brought into a world so dark that it should be impossible to imagine. A world where a single Witch rules and has brought about eternal snow. A world where a series of resistance groups have tried to overthrow the Witch throughout many centuries but have always, and without fail been defeated and destroyed. But it's more than that, this Witch has always used children from earth to do her bidding, and for hundreds and hundreds of years has been looking for the one child she can use who has enough power to release her from her banishment on a world she can never call home. But above all, it's a story of magic. Every child from earth has magic in them, magic placed there by the Wizards of old to protect them from the Witch, and it is this magic which the Witch is trying to use to get back to her original home where the other Witches live. The basis of the story is that there is one child who can either be the people's saviour or the Witch's saviour, and both Rachel and Eric have quite amazing powers which the Witch wants to analyse and use. The inhabitants of the world who were brought there as children are desperately looking for the Child-Hope, whilst the Witch is looking for the Girl-Child. Overall, this probably doesn't sound like a n enthralling or original book, but somehow it seems to be. It is based around two verses; the verse of hope:
'Dark girl she will be,
Enemies to set free,
Sing in harmony,
From sleep and dawn-bright sea.
I will arise,
And behold your childish glee.'
And the verse of darkness:
'Dark girl she will be,
Fair hearts broken,
Ancient wrath awoken,
Wizards under lawn,
Darkness without dawn.'
And this kind of sums up the book, it is the story of a struggle between hope and darkness. And again, I hear you say, this is nothing new, we are treading on a road that has been travelled so many times before. But somehow Cliff McNish has made it new, somehow he has made this into a fantastic piece of writing and an almost magical journey into another world. What should be yet another rip off of a 'timeless classic', has instead been transformed into a marvellous piece of story telling all of his own. There is a darkness to it which many 'young adult' books don't fully grasp, like the fact that the servants of the Witch are forced to grow older in body for centuries, never allowed to die unless the Witch is the one dealing the final blow. However, they keep the size of the children they once were when the first arrived on her world so that the Witch can be certain that they will never forget her dominion over them and that they will never grow into rational beings into her eyes. Likewise, the punishments which the Witch comes out with to those who displease her also add an extremely dark element to the book. But it is this darkness that allows the novel to carry a sense of desperate hope against all evils, because that is the only thing that the inhabitants of this world have to cling onto. They are desperate for the Child-Hope to arrive because she is the only hope which they have. You can only know true hope, relief or fulfilment when you have first seen and known the worst which the world has to offer.
I have a nasty feeling that I have not been selling this book all too well, but strangely enough this 'children's story' of two children attempting to save a world with the help of a few resistance members is a truly gripping read. It is also very powerfully written by someone who understands just how easily children can be brain-washed and used for someone else's purposes. Even as a 21 year old reading a book which was bought for me 7 years ago, this book still had the ability to make me laugh and cry with the characters. It's been quite a while since a book has actually made me cry, but this one managed it. The characters are written in such a way that you can actually empathise with them, the children aren't so precocious as to be annoying and in total it is a fantastic read - both for teenagers, and for adults who still believe they are teenagers in some tiny portion of their mind!
Title: The Doomspell - Part One of the Doomspell Trilogy
Author: Cliff McNish
Price: Amazon: from 50p
This is a fantastic book, don't hesitate to buy it for friends or family or for that matter yourself.