Into The Woods

20th October 2006 at 01:00
Forget about blockbusters and check out two books that employ classical formulas to stunning contemporary effect

Into The Woods By Lyn Gardner

With pictures by Mini Grey David Fickling Books pound;12.99

It isn't often that we jaded, cynical reviewers encounter a novel that reminds us why we wanted to write about books in the first place. But that's what happened to me with Into The Woods. Forget all the over-hyped blockbusters: Lyn Gardner's fairytale fantasy is the genuine article, a terrific page-turner full of great characters and great writing.

It's the tale of Storm, Aurora and Anything Eden, three sisters who are orphaned and forced to flee into the woods. The plot combines elements from familiar stories - The Pied Piper, Sleeping Beauty, The Snow Queen, Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood - and also features new characters, in particular the marvellously creepy villain Dr De Wilde.

At over 400 pages, it's a long read for top juniors, but a gripping one, with wonderful set-pieces and winsome illustrations by Mini Grey. At its heart is the relationship between the girls, a wholly credible mix of love and exasperation, although everything ultimately depends on Storm, who takes on the forces of evil to save her sisters.

I was with her up to the last page, desperate for her to succeed. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say that if all the books I had to review were this good, I'd be happy ever after.

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