Kay - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

The Divide
(The Divide trilogy, Book 1)
Elizabeth Kay
Chicken House
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: Felix has known he was dying all his life, victim of an incurable heart disease, but he never expected to die in Costa Rica, straddling the Divide. Here, the waters split between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans... and reality itself grows thin enough for a boy to pass between worlds. He wakes in a strange place, where mythical animals and magic are real and humans and science are imaginary. After meeting a strangely math-obsessed griffin and escaping a doglike monster that kills with laughter, he finds himself with the elf girl Betony, in the company of "brittlehorns" (known on Earth as unicorns.) Though he may not be able to return back home, he discovers an unexpected hope: it's just possible that magic might succeed where medical science has failed, curing Felix's ailing heart.
Meanwhile, Betony's siblings, Tansy and Ramson, have traveled to the city of Tiratattle, trying to sell a new healing spell to Global Panaceas. But there's something not quite right about the japegrin-run outfit or the remedies they're churning out. Many of the potions seem to do more harm than good, and the owner, Snakeweed, seems every bit as elusive and devious as his name suggests.
Felix, Betony, Tansy, and Ramson soon find themselves in the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the whole magical world... and just might spill over into Earth.

REVIEW: On the surface, this story is loaded with superficial, Fluffy Bunny-type trappings. Dragons train as living aircraft, healer elves accidentally turn themselves to stone, students routinely transform inanimate objects into animals if their spelling tests go wrong, and so forth. But just beneath that silly surface lies a much darker layer. For instance, the doglike worrit, which tells jokes and performs pratfalls for its victims, quite literally can kill through laughter; even doubled over in mirth, characters feel the raw terror of their helplessness. Pharmaceutical malpractice and environmental destruction lie at the heart of the tale, which racks up a higher body count than many adult books I've read... and death in the magical world is just as final as death on Earth, with no crossed-fingers or convenient outs. No race or species comes across as entirely good or entirely evil; they all have many shades of morality, even the demonic sinistroms, and no character is so perfect that they have nothing to learn. It moves at a fair pace, starting fast and rarely letting up until the ending - which, naturally, sets up plenty of tension for Book 2. Once in a while the messages felt a trifle heavy-handed, but overall I enjoyed this story, and look forward to tracking down the rest of the trilogy.

You might also enjoy:
Demons Don't Dream (Piers Anthony, Fiction - A computer game pulls two Earth kids into magical Xanth, to settle a demons' bet)
The Everworld series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Four Chicago teens are pulled into a world where magic and elder gods reign)
A Hollow World: Down the Rabbit Hole (R. G. Beckwith, Fiction - A young scientist, fresh out of college, joins a government team investigating a mysterious hole in Greenland)
The Practice Effect (David Brin, Fiction - A 21st-century physicist finds himself stranded in a strange, violent world with peculiar physical laws)
The Sisters Grimm series (Micheal Buckley, YA Fiction - Two orphaned girls discover that fairy tales were based on true events)
Storybound (Marissa Burt, YA Fiction - A girl falls into the world of Story)
Fairy Metal Thunder (JL Bryan, YA Fiction - A modern teen musician steals magical instruments from Fairyland, leading his garage band to great success... and trouble)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself, suddenly and inexplicably, in a world of elves and dragons)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer, YA Fiction - A boy criminal pits his prodigious wits against the underground Fairy nation)
The Wiz Biz books (Rich Cook, Fiction - A Silicon Valley programmer finds himself plucked from his office and dropped in a magical world)
Clockwork Kingdom (Leah R. Cutter, YA Fiction - Modern twins are lured into the schemes of a dangerous fairy queen)
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (Julie Andrews Edwards, YA Fiction - A professor and three children seek the world of the fanciful Whangdoodle, which can only be found through the power of imagination)
The Tower (J. S. Frankel, YA Fiction - A dying boy stumbles into an alternate Earth, where comic book heroes are real)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, Fiction - A craven but clever goblin, captured and forced to guide a group of bickering adventurers, learns that heroism is highly overrated)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to put on "tours" for offworld visitors, recreating standard epic fantasy journeys)
The Dark World (Henry Kuttner, Fiction - A World War II vet finds himself in a parallel world of magic, fighting memories of an alternate, evil self)
Doon (Laurie Langdon and Carey Corp, YA Fiction - Two American teen girls find their way to the mystical Scottish kingdom of Doon)
Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire, YA? Fiction - A teen attends a special boarding school to deal with the psycholgical aftermath of having been to a magical world)
The Magic 2.0 series (Scott Meyer, Fiction - After meddling with the data file controlling reality, a modern hacker flees to medieval England to play wizard)
The Accidental Sorcerer ((K. E. Mills, Fiction - A lowly third-level mage, disgraced in his homeland, discovers untapped powers in the service of an ambitious king)
Heroics for Beginners (John Moore, Fiction - A prince sets out to win the hand of his princess girlfriend with the help of a handbook on practical heroics)
The Unhandsome Prince (John Moore, Fiction - A determined girl frees a homely prince from a frog curse, but demands a more handsome husband)
The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica (James A. Owen, YA Fiction - Three English men, destined to be famed authors, travel to the magical Archipelago of Dreams, inspiration for myth and story since prehistory)
The Keeper and the Rune Stone (Paige W. Pendleton, YA Fiction - Four children become "awakened" to the presence of magical beings)
Switch! The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu (Karen Prince, YA Fiction - Three modern African boys become entangled in magical dangers in a hidden world)
Mystics #1: The Seventh Sense (Kim Richardson, YA Fiction - An orphan girl can see invisible monsters, some of whom seem to be hunting her down)
The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (Rick Riordan, YA Fiction - Olympian gods still live, as do their immortal enemies)
Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow (James Rollins, YA Fiction - A mysterious artifact pulls two teens into a lost world)
The Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling, YA Fiction - An orphan boy learns of his magical heritage, and the dark truth about what really happened to his wizard parents)
The Princess and the Firedrake (Jim Stinson, YA Fiction - Cursed by being too clever, a banished princess must save her kingdom from an angry dragon)
The Bartimaeus books (Jonathan Stroud, YA Fiction - In an alternate world, a sarcastic djinn is enslaved by magicians)
The Rhyme of the Willow series (Justin Sullivan and Samuel Sullivan, YA Fiction - Two kids find themselves in a dark world of plants gone wild)
The Girl Who Cirucmnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente, YA Fiction - An Omaha girl travels to Fairyland for an Adventure, and finds herself fighting an evil Marquess)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
The War of the Flowers (Tad Williams, Fiction - A man finds himself in the world of Faerie, where magic has grown in a twisted mockery of technology)
The Birthright series (Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan, YA Graphic Novel - A young boy disappears, only to return a year later having grown up in a fantasy world, corrupted by the forces he was supposed to destroy)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being a proper princess, a girl in a fairy-tale kingdom runs away to live with dragons)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, Fiction - After Good conquers Evil, four heroes must set out on a "reverse quest" to scatter the powerful magical artifacts that won the day)

Return to Top of Page - Return to Book Review List

Return to Brightdreamer Books Home

Brightdreamer Books is created and maintained by TBW, a.k.a. "Brightdreamer."
E-mail: tbweber AT comcast DOT net. Remove spaces, replace AT with "@" and DOT with "." - please put "Brightdreamer Books" in the subject line, or your e-mail may be deleted as spam! Thank you!