2014, 378p, Middle Grade Fantasy
My Rating=4 Stars
Source: Received a copy from the tour host for an honest review
It is Easter, 1973 and twelve year old Sebastian Duffy has some serious self-esteem issues. He is beaten by his parents, bullied at school, steals from his friends and still mourning the death of his brother. To cap it all, strange things have begun happening around him and he is finding it hard to distinguish dreams from reality. After a nightmarish assault, he wakes in the Gloaming, a shadow world inhabited by ghosts. There to greet him is Porrig, a creature from Hibercadia, a magical realm crafted from Celtic dreams. Inhabited by Fir Bolg, Tuath and Milesians, it has been overthrown by brother gods from another dreamworld. One brother, Phobitor, is a tyrant and even the Tuath, who took to their underground sidhe millennia ago, are concerned. Sebastian discovers that he alone can save Hibercadia by finding an enchanted spear. Teaming up with the Hibernauts—a mercurial sorceress, an orphaned druidess, a taciturn warrior, a snuff-sniffing leprechaun and a lovelorn poet—he embarks on a fantastical quest, but can he succeed when he is yet to find his magical potential or even his courage, and half the realm is bent on his destruction?
From the summary, we learn that Sebastian is beaten by his parents and bullied at school. I wasn't prepared for how much it hurt me to read it happening. I felt so sad that he had nowhere safe to go. There wasn't even a teacher at school that was particularly nice to him. When something really awful happens to him, he's able to enter the Gloaming, a world he's been dreaming about.
This is a book where a lot happens. There's some great world building with lots of characters and creatures introduced. At times it seemed overwhelming to me and it was hard for me to remember who and what some of the characters were. When I finished, I found a handy Cast list at the end, which is helpful for someone like me.
Sebastian is likable and, after all the tough things he has to deal with, I was glad to see him go somewhere where he feels wanted and is able to develop his self-esteem. He has a physical abnormality which is helpful in his new world. His journey is beginning and it will be interesting to see how he progresses as the series continues.
The plot is complex and there's plenty of action and adventure. Just when I thought it might slow down a little, it picked up again. I kept thinking it had to slow down somewhat towards the end, but it didn't and left plenty of questions to be answered in the future!
Content: Mild swearing
Sebastian woke to find himself on a hill overlooking a battlefield. Carnage reigned below as thousands of warriors butchered one another. They fought upon the dead and dying, trampling them underfoot, impervious to the heartrending screams. To keep upright was everything; few that slipped and fell rose again, yet still they writhed and slashed, frantically clinging to life.
Sebastian raised his squinting eyes to the dueling creatures overhead, darting specks against the blushing backdrop. How could he have slept in the teeth of such terror? He figured he must have zoned out as a precaution, to enable him to do what was needed, hours ago judging by the advancing sun. Why had he been asked to do this? He knew the answer lay tantalizingly close, just out of reach. Not that it mattered. He would do it anyway, though he had no idea why they needed a boy. As he shifted his feet and turned to look at his left hand, the chain mail dug into his shoulders and his stomach reared. There were his fingers, curled around the object that had brought him here. Something flew close by and called to him with words so indescribably beautiful, he could not understand an inner compulsion to ignore them. He sensed the presence of his friends around him, yet each time he turned to look they slipped from view, determined to watch from the wings. This was his moment. He heard a chant picked up. One voice, then a dozen, now scores, hundreds, thousands and finally the entire army reciting the words till they were all he could hear. It was in a foreign tongue, a language he had never learned, yet its words lay at the root of his being and he understood everything. It was time. The warriors began to beat their weapons against the ground until it shook. He felt the first vibration reach him and began to count. Wait for the ninth wave, he told himself as he raised his arm aloft.
Praise for Beyond the Gloaming
I cannot say just how much I have enjoyed this book; you are a very accomplished writer with a wonderfully rich imagination. Your use of the English language is amazing and your ability to create the many different speaking styles in the book and to maintain them is remarkable. You have an incredibly inventive mind and readers will come to love the many wonderful creations in this novel, it is jam-packed with the most wonderful and inventive characters; new, exciting and beautifully realised.
~The Oxford Editors
An imaginative epic…an intricate and fully realised fantasy world with a big cast of likeable characters that are charming, well drawn and endearing, with wonderfully apt names. The depth and breadth of your high-voltage imagination, and the richness of the world you create is very impressive.
~Sam Mills, author of Blackout, The Boys Who Saved the World, and The Quiddity of Will Self
Brendan Murphy was raised in Sheffield, England, with dreams of becoming a writer, and has written every day since he was nine years old. After reading medicine in London and psychiatry in Manchester, he moved to Australia in 1999. He is an Associate Professor at Monash University and has written widely on youth mental health. His nonfiction work on the development of football in Victorian society, From Sheffield with Love, was published in 2007. He lives with his wife, Katrina, and their children, Sebastian and Violette, in a sprawling property built for the composer, Dorian Le Gallienne. They share their garden with a mob of kangaroos, a wombat, two possums, any number of creepy crawlies, and some very feisty kookaburras. In 2013, he was signed to Assent Publishing for a six-book deal. Beyond the Gloaming, the first Sebastian and the Hibernauts adventure, will be published by Assent imprint, Phantasm Books in 2014.
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