Children's fiction

12th January 2007 at 00:00
Maddigan's Fantasia

By Margaret Mahy

Faber pound;12.99

For eight to 14-year-olds

Elaine Williams picks out fantasy adventures to stimulate the imagination

Fantasy is often full of apocalyptic foreboding, rooted in the deeply moralistic prophecies of folklore. Who better to tap into this archetypal landscape than Margaret Mahy? This epic, kaleidoscopic, visionary story takes us into a world where science has failed and ravaged communities turn to travellers and entertainers for news and solace.

Maddigan's Fantasia is a travelling circus, a remarkable band of acrobats and musicians searching for an energy source for their native city. On the way they bring joy and healing to communities, each stop generating more wild adventures.

It is easy to see how this episodic tale suited television (in the BBC TV series Maddigan's Quest). After Ferdy Maddigan, the leader of Fantasia, dies at the hands of the Road Rats, Garland, his daughter, encounters two boys and their baby sister who are trying to conquer evil in their own time by returning to the past.

A cockle-warming story of love and courage, with agents of evil stalking the adventurers

Voices

By Ursula Le Guin Orion Children's Books pound;10.99

For 12-plus

A library hidden in the mountains is a beacon of hope in Maddigan's Fantasia. In Voices, a secret library is also at the heart of a struggle to protect the culture of an occupied people.

This is the captivating sequel to Ursula Le Guin's Gifts, the second in the Annals of the Western Shore trilogy, a fantasy series that res-onates prophetically with the state of many communities in today's war-torn globe.

We follow Orrec the storyteller and his wife Gry as they travel a country occupied by an uncultured, warmongering tribe. Reading and books have been outlawed, but they meet Memer, who not only has the gift of reading but wisdom beyond her years

The Singer of All Songs

Book One: Chanters of Tremaris

By Kate Constable

Allen and Unwin Children's Books pound;5.99

For 10-plus

More boys than girls tend to favour fantasy novels, but this is a series with definite girl-appeal. The Singer of All Songs charts the adventures of Calwyn, a plucky young woman who leaves her enclosed order of the Daughters of Taris to follow Darrow, a young man who shatters her community's peace with tales of fear and loathing in the Outlands. As in Margaret Mahy's novel, they embark on an epic journey, facing evil at every turn, pitted against the sorcerer Samis.

Kate Constable is an accomplished novelist, her prose evocative and her characters memorable

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