The Book of Lost Things
a novel by John Connolly
InstaRating: 5 (out of 5)
This is simply a good book. I would not have thought anything would rank up next to a new book by Guy Gavriel Kay (Ysabel, which I’ll review some other time), but this one easily meets that standard. One of life’s greatest treasures, for me, is a book that compels me to keep reading at an ever-more-breakneck pace. I love a book that gives me the sensation that I’m missing details because the vision is so extravagant and the journey so enthralling that there just isn’t time to savor everything. I love a book so good that, around page 50, I start calculating how long I have to wait so that it will be fresh when I re-read it.
A short summary: David is a pre-teen in World War II Britain, who loses his mother to an unnamed lingering disease and his father (as David sees it) to a stepmother and half-brother. David starts to hear books whisper to him and then, in an ancient house, hears his mother’s voice calling to him. He ventures into the garden just as a Luftewaffe bomber crashes, propelling him into an alternate world where strange versions of well-known fairy tales seem to be true. He meets a kindly Woodsman and a questing knight, but is menaced by the half-wolf Loups, by harpies, trolls, and above all by the Crooked Man, an indistinct but terrifying menace who wants, for reasons left unexplained, for David to tell him the name of his half-brother. At the suggestion of the Woodsman, David travels east toward the castle of the ailing King and his magic Book of Lost Things. What he discovers — there and along the way, in the King and in himself — ends up changing everything.
More detail will inevitably involve spoilers, so I’ll hide them below the fold. If you’re looking for whether this book is a good read, but you don’t want to know the ending, stop here and take my word for it: This is a good book. It will richly reward you for reading it. Connolly shows himself to be a master of atmosphere and foreshadowing. If you need to hear more, and don’t mind knowing what’s coming, read on…
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