I'm becoming a big fan of Louie Stowell's fiction for children. Her 'Dragon in the Library' series is fabulous fun and a favourite with some of the children in my class - and they have a lot to pick from! 'Otherland' is for slightly older children but nonetheless fizzles with the same lollipop joy. It's escapist in all the best ways: funny, fantastical and full of fairies!
When Rohan discovers that his baby sister Shilpa has been stolen and taken to the Otherland, he sets out to claim her back with the help of his friend Myra. But Otherland is a dangerous and unpredictable world with vampires, fairies and peculiar gods. To get Shilpa back, Rohan and Myra must complete a series of challenges set by the mischievous Fairy Queen - challenges that will test their friendship and what they know is truly real about themselves.
Stowell has a unique ability to create stories oozing with wit, charm and invention, and 'Otherland' has it in abundance. Nothing ever feels too serious - there's plenty of humour and playfulness and it reads like a classic hero's quest through a portal. There are many similarities to Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth': the stolen baby, a strange world, the glitz and glamour. I can imagine David Bowie equally enjoying transforming into the Fairy Queen, but perhaps Tilda Swinton would make an apt choice too. However, 'Otherland' is arguably more fun and madcap, and at its heart its an exploration of the friendship between Rohan and Myra, a human friendship which 'Labyrinth' perhaps lacks. This is a story about how friendships can be tested and how mistakes are apart of what makes us human; that it's important to believe in yourself, regardless of the mayhem that you find yourself in. I love Rohan and Myra and the banter between them, as well as their hilarious reactions to the surreal events that happen to them. From chapter to chapter, it's impossible to predict where the story will lead and this adds to the sheer joy of it.
'Otherland' is a fantastic fantasy and one I know children in my class will be fighting to get their hands on. Thanks Louie Stowell for brightening our days!
Thank you also to Nosy Crow for providing a proof copy to review.