Children's Literature - Naomi Williamson
As orphans at Delphi Keep, Ian and Theo have spent many hours roaming the area surrounding the keep and the castle of the Earl of Kent. The White Cliffs overlooking the southern coast of England are filled with caves where the two spend hours wandering, exploring, and creating a map of the area. When they come across a silver box of Greek origin, writing on the wall in one of the caves, and a hellhound emerges from another part of the cave, they realize they have stumbled onto something bigger than they can handle. The adventures that soon overtake them and those around them are far beyond their imaginations and understanding. The story is complete with premonitions, prophecies, riddles, ancient languages, monsters, warriors, heroes, mythical figures, and a portal through which they travel to another country. This jumble of action and characters may confuse the reader as the tale unfolds. While filled with action, there is also a tendency to drag out descriptions, and the dangerous events in which the characters find themselves are sometimes too neatly brought to a conclusion. Reviewer: Naomi Williamson
VOYA - Heather Christensen
While exploring one of the many caverns near the English orphanage where he lives, thirteen-year-old Ian Wigby discovers a small treasure box that contains the writings of an ancient Greek prophetess by the name of Laodamia. This unusual discovery lands Ian, his sister Theo, and his new friend Carl right in the middle of an epic adventure involving mythological beasts, an ancient feud, and of course, the fulfillment of a long foretold prophecy. Theo's own talent for prophecy becomes stronger and attracts the attention of Demogorgon, the god of the underworld. Demogorgon is also familiar with Laodamia's prophecies and fears that Theo and Ian will thwart his rise to power. He consequently sends his evil henchmen and vicious hellhounds after the pair. Complicating matters is the shadow of the German threat as World War II looms. Laurie's world draws from the language and legends of Greek mythology, but it is very differently imagined. The characters are poorly developed, although subsequent books in the series might help round them out a bit. The familiar plot of an orphan boy on a heroic quest is fast-paced and full of enough mystery and intrigue to keep readers turning pages. Fans of Nimmo's Charlie Bone series will likely enjoy the adventures of another group of children with special powers. Reviewer: Heather Christensen
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—The orphanage at Delphi Keep is a great place for Ian and Theodosia to grow up. They love exploring the tunnels all around the White Cliffs of Dover. One day, they happen upon a silver box in one of them. When Ian wedges it free from the sand, a vicious hell-hound, the servant of an evil sorcerer, begins to chase them. The two soon find themselves embroiled in a wild adventure involving a prophecy foretold by the oracle Laodamia about the coming of the Nazis and the end of the world. It hinges on an old legend about the Demogorgon fathering four children who control the elements and who are bent on destruction. Now, the two children, along with their friend Carl, their teachers, and an old antiquities professor, must race against half-demons and piece together the clues of the prophecy. If they don't find several important objects mentioned in it, the world could be destroyed. While the story begins well and has several breathtaking action sequences, it quickly meanders and loses steam. Laurie has too many plot strands to tie together and she does so haphazardly, leaving the story overloaded with characters, especially villains. The characters themselves seem more like archetypes than real people, and the dialogue is sometimes unrealistic. With an overlong, complicated plot and long stretches of low action, the story is unlikely to find a wide audience.—Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA
A tedious, overstuffed addition to the crowded field of juvenile fantasies. Ian is the archetypal Plucky Orphan Lad, adventurous, rule-bending, devoted to his loves-her-like-a-sister Theo and with a knack for conveniently overhearing crucial conversations. When a forbidden excursion unleashes a hellhound upon 1938 Dover, sinister forces begin to circle about in a way that threatens Armageddon. Can our daring Hero, his intrepid Best Chum, the Girl with the Narrative-Advancing Visions and their various one-note Adult Accessories possibly collect sufficient plot tokens to Save the World (or at least kick off a series)? Rather than carefully craft a realistic world with a consistent magical aspects, the author chooses to throw prophecies, extrasensory perception, Greek mythology, gypsy fortunetelling, Druids, crystal vibrations, elemental thaumaturgy, Nazis, pseudo-scientific technobabble-everything but vampires and space aliens-at the story, in the hope that something might stick. Ludicrous historical blunders and a tin ear for period British usage don't help, but the real failing is the lumbering pace, as potentially suspenseful episodes are dragged down by exhaustive descriptions of generic minutiae. Unnecessary. (Fantasy. 10-14)
Read an Excerpt
A New Orphan at Delphi Keep
Dover, England, September 1930
Ian Wigby sat on his cot, staring at the raging storm just beyond his window. It seemed that Lady Lightning and Master Thunder were having another argument, or so the headmistress Madam Dimbleby liked to say.
“That old married couple,” she would tell the children, “Lady Lightning and Master Thunder, sometimes have arguments, as married couples often do. Lady Lightning likes to keep her husband, Master Thunder, in line, you see, so she zaps him a good sting every now and again. But the master won’t have it, and he roars back at her. Give them a few hours to tire themselves out and they’ll soon settle down and let their daughter Mistress Rain have the sky all to herself again.”
Madam Dimbleby told the story of Lady Lightning and Master Thunder to all the orphans who came to live at Delphi Keep, to help them adjust to the turbulent weather that often visited their little patch of England. And it worked, if the seven sleeping boys behind Ian were any indication.
But Ian wasn’t fearful of the tempest outside. In fact, he’d never been afraid of any storm. Instead, he was fascinated by the brilliant light and the clapping thunder, and he loved storms at night best of all. Yet this squall brought a foreboding to him that he couldn’t quite shake, and for some time he’d been less interested in what was happening in the night sky and more absorbed in watching the ground below.
Deep in his five-year-old bones he knew that his life was about to change. Intently, he watched the road leading to the keep, a thin strip of black that he was just able to make out every time Lady Lightning sent a snap to her husband. There had been nothing on the road to call his attention, and yet he couldn’t take his eyes off it.
The clock at the foot of the stairs chimed. He counted as the old timepiece gonged eleven times.
Ian sighed. His eyelids were growing heavy and the storm was dying down. Perhaps he should give up his vigil and crawl under the covers. But just as he was about to turn and pull back the bedclothes, Lady Lightning sent a terrific zap across the sky and something on the road materialized out of the darkness. Ian squinted and rested his forehead on the windowpane. The form that had caught his attention appeared to be large.
Ian cupped his hands around his eyes, straining to peer into the darkness. There! Something moved! In fact, it was racing along the road toward the keep! As he watched, he began to put features to the form. It looked like a man on a horse, riding hard through the rain. Ian’s mouth fell open. He’d been right! Something exciting was about to happen.
He jumped out of bed and trotted on tiptoe to the other end of the long room, past the double rows of sleeping boys. He paused at the door and placed his ear at the crack. Soon he was rewarded with the banging of a fist on the heavy oak door of the keep.
For a moment the interior of the old fortress remained quiet, but just as he was about to open his door to get Madam Dimbleby, he heard her shuffling down the hallway with her cousin and companion headmistress, Madam Scargill.
“Who could that be at this hour?” he heard Madam Dimbleby ask.
“Whoever it is should be taught some manners!” Madam Scargill complained as more pounding echoed from downstairs.
Ian opened his door a crack and peered into the hallway, catching a glimpse of the back of Madam Scargill’s head as she descended the staircase. He waited a beat, then stepped into the hallway and crept to the railing. There was an old table butted up against the wooden slats with a small hole in the back that would give him both cover and a convenient spy hole. He scooted under the table just in time to see the headmistresses open the door and reveal a stranger.
A bony-looking man, soaked to the skin, stood in the doorway. His hair was long and stuck to his unshaven face. He wore a tattered coat and large black boots, and in the dim light he appeared quite frightful. “Please,” he said in a deep voice. “I come on a mission of mercy!”
The headmistresses had stepped back as they’d opened the door to the man, and Ian could see their doubtful expressions when they turned to each other in silent contemplation. As they hesitated, the man stepped forward and pulled something out from the folds of his coat. Both women gasped when they saw that it was a small child. “I found ’er not four hours ago,” he explained. “She was toddlin’ about in this muck, if you can believe it. I took ’er ’ome for a time to wait the rain out, but I don’t ’ave any food fit for ’er and up until a bit ago she was frettin’ as bad as this storm.”
“Oh, my!” said Madam Dimbleby as she hurried to take the child. After hugging the toddler to her chest and pulling the folds of her shawl about the babe, she asked, “Where on earth did you find her?”
“?’Er mum rents the cottage on the edge of me property,” the man said. “I found this little one wandering about in the field next to the ’ouse, so I went looking for ’er mum but she’s cleared out.”
“Cleared out?” Madam Scargill asked in her usual clipped speech. “What do you mean, ‘cleared out’?”
“All ’er belongings is gone. ’Er clothes, ’er trunk, all ’er personal things. There was this note, though,” he said, and once more he dug around in the folds of his coat, from which he fished a crumpled, damp letter that he held out to the women.
Madam Scargill took the paper, placing her half-glasses onto her nose before she read, “?‘I cannot stay any longer. The child would be in danger if she were found with me. Please get her safely to the orphanage at the keep near Castle Dover.’?”
“Horrible!” Madam Dimbleby exclaimed as she rocked the small child. “To abandon a helpless child and in the middle of a terrible night like this!”
“And how dreadful of her to leave the job of getting the girl to us up to any passing stranger,” sniffed Madam Scargill.
From the Hardcover edition.