Sunday 27 May 2012

Book review: Montefiore's Goddaughter.

By Elizabeth Brooks.

The strength of the opening of this book drew me in straight away to the dream world of the protagonist and I instantly wished I had a place of haven like that to escape to in my dreams. “Where do you go at night?” It asks, and the now adult Abigail Crabtree relates the description of her dream world to us. It is a place she drifts to when she sleeps in the Waking World and, accompanied by Boris her teddy bear, she has great friends and great adventures there.

But the dream world is not wholly safe and Abigail tells us of how her story really began, the day she saw her first Vulture Man. In this dream forest of cannibals, and now enemies that seem to be hunting specifically for her and her friends, Abigail finds herself tracked not only in Traumund but in the Waking World too, when she is hunted and summoned to her godfather, Ludovick Montefiore.

Montefiore is a wealthy man and wishes to pay for a grand education for Abigail, and without further ado she finds herself at The Institute of Social and Personal Advancement under the scathing tutelage of a headmistress who makes it clear from the offset that Abigail, with her scruffy hair, baggy clothes and teddy bear, is less than welcome there. Now, with no allies, and no desire to spend her days painting her nails and straightening her hair, Abigail must seek solace in the one place she can: Traumund. But the Vulture Men draw closer and the King they serve is closer to Abigail than she suspected.

This is a fantastically imaginative book and comes alive with visual imagery that is so well rendered as to make the reader wish the world of Traumund were real and accessible to all of us. Brooks’ blend of the modern elements of the institute and the grand and ancient feel of Montefiore’s abbey and the world of Traumund is surprisingly effective in reminding us that this is a modern story about a modern girl that we can all relate to in some way.

Imagination itself is a theme of the story, and it really focuses around Abigail’s determination not to conform or give up her dreams and desires in favour of what society thinks she should be doing, wearing, saying and feeling. As a narrator Abigail is pitched perfectly and has those moments of self-doubt, cowardice and indecision that afflict all of us. She is not the strong heroine so often found in stories, she is real, and acts based on what is best for her at the time and within the confines of her environment.

Montefiore’s Goddaughter has a young protagonist and would fall into the young adult bracket, but as an adult reader I certainly related to the story and found myself compelled to read on. Some elements of the action are rather unsettling and there is no lack of excitement or tension throughout the story. The standard of the writing and the phrasing felt quite literary and certainly mature enough to stimulate an adult reader. Overall this book is a highly enjoyable read and the sort of grand story that is perfect for bedtime reading.

Elloise Hopkins.

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