Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
"This evocative and sometimes profound fantasy distinguishes itself by way of vivid imagery, compelling action and often Siren-like lyricism," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-Careful character development, a vivid British setting, and a skillful use of language combine with McCaughrean's vast knowledge of world legend and folklore to create a historical fantasy that should appeal to a wide variety of readers. Phelim Green, 11, knows it won't be an ordinary day when he finds the cast-iron stove pushed away from the wall and all the furniture piled up against the door. Then a greasy, dirt-encrusted Domovoy, an ancient Slavic house-guardian, emerges from behind the stove. According to the Domovoy, only Phelim can slay the Stoor Worm and save the world. The boy finds that he cannot escape his quest and sets off, accompanied by Alexia, the Maiden; Mad Sweeney, the Fool; and the Obby Oss, a two-legged, talking Horse. They explain how the guns and mortars and screams of the dying of World War I have begun to wake the Stoor Worm that has slept for centuries. On his quest, he must climb up to its cavernous mouth where eggs of stone are hatching into every sort of disgusting, dreaded creature from the Otherworld. The story is populated with a catalog of creatures from the dark side of myth and legend. Malevolent faeries are in search of unwilling human brides, corn wives are slaughtering reapers in the fields, and a lumbering, transparent sack of insatiable digestive organs pursues Phelim and Alexia down a well. However, at the heart of this fantasy, serious issues are paramount. Readers will think about loyalty and friendship, bravery and cowardice, perseverance and love, and learn that the horrors of war and the loss of a friend are worse than all of the monsters Phelim encounters.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Horn Book Review
(Intermediate) In this beautifully wrought story, McCaughrean has woven elements from old Celtic lore into an allegory against war. Young Phelim Green lives with his older sister Prudence, who has spent years degrading him into a shy, uncertain recluse. Finding one morning the kitchen in huge disarray-with the cast iron stove pulled away from the wall and all the windows and doors blocked with furniture-Phelim meets the Domovoy, who gives him a new name, Jack O'Green, and pushes him out the door to go and save the land from the Hatchlings of the Stoor Worm. Certain that they have the wrong person, our reluctant hero soon finds himself in the company of Sweeney, an old soldier who flits about from treetop to treetop like a deranged bat; Alexia, a helpful, knowledgeable, shadowless witch; and the Obby Oss, a comical cone-topped platter with legs. As this classic foursome of Hero, Fool, Maiden, and Horse start on their journey, Phelim's encounter with the Washer-at-the-Ford reveals the fate that awaits him. Burdened with this secret, young Phee/Jack, with the help of the others, outwits Hatchlings as they travel toward the headland that is, in reality, the Worm's snout. Adventure, tragedy, resurrection, and finally self-knowledge bring the journey to its inevitable end as the Worm is vanquished and the classic journey becomes a beginning. With lyrical language, pieces of old songs and poetry, and wondrous imagery, McCaughrean has created a story of amazing depth and breadth. This novel belongs with those of Alan Garner, Patricia Wrightson, William Mayne, Susan Cooper, and others whose stories reawaken within us the importance of our archetypal connections. martha walke (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
McCaughrean (Pirate's Son, 1999, etc.) sends a lad through as fine an array of malign faeries, usteys, corn wives, soul-stealing merrows, skinless muckelavees, and other deadly bogles as ever lurked in Celtic folklore, in hopes of slaying a dragon literally "half the size of Wales." It all comes upon 11-year-old Phelim suddenly, when his home's supernatural guardian, the Domovoy, appears, calling him "Jack O'Green" and insisting that he better get a move on. It seems that the guns of the WWI have not only disturbed the 2,000-year sleep of the Stoor Worm that lies along the Welsh coast, but have set her stone eggs to hatching out all the creatures of nightmare to boot. Frightened and mystified but gaining confidence as he goes, Phelim acquires some unlikely companions--Alexia, a young witch; Sweeney, a soldier driven mad in the Napoleonic Wars; and for transportation, a headless, ungainly "Obby Oss." He narrowly escapes death several times, and learns what he needs to know from his adventures to accomplish his seemingly hopeless task. McCaughrean creates a world turned upside down, in which creatures thought safely tucked away in entertaining legends assume terrifying reality, and old local blood rites are revived in self defense: as the Obby Oss says, "Magic is not nice. Magics wuz never nice." Nor, as it turns out, is Phelim, quite, for at the end he dispatches his trollish big sister to the ends of the earth on a water sprite's back for placing their father, the real Jack O'Green, into an asylum. Despite the distracting family subplot, not since William Mayne's Hob and the Goblins (1994) has the Old Magic risen in the modern world with such resounding menace. (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.