To really enjoy the book, it’s important to understand that it is the beginning of a long series. That puts the style and action in perspective. I forget how long the series is going to be but it’s long enough to reach double figures of books and for the author to express concerns about living to finish it! I hope he does because once you get into the way the story is told it’s fun. Gordon and Zac, his ‘invisible’ friend – or at least, invisible to everyone but Gordon friend – are winning characters and I enjoyed spending time in their company. Indeed, when I had to put the book aside for a while, I missed them and wondered what they are getting up to. That, for me, is a good sign.
The book is laid out more like a text book than a novel – it didn’t surprise me to discover Mr Chambers was an ex teacher. The chapters are short and easy to digest with a glossary of words at the end of each one. What I didn’t realise was that this glossary links to a wealth of explanatory end matter – 20% of the book, no less, which kind of threw me when I got to the end of the story and discovered that the next 20% was… well.. not the story. That was odd and a bit of a surprise but not unduly bothersome.
This book is best read this with an open mind. Trying to construct, second guess or reason why won’t get you anywhere. Just let it carry you along. To be honest it felt like two books, a first instalment up to the point where Gordon and his mum spot a holiday cottage they’d like to go and stay in and a second story of the adventure they have while there. Big plus though, that didn’t bother me either. The writing is easy to read and because Gordon and his imaginary friend, Zac, are likeable and I was soon drawn in.
There are some lovely ideas in the book; the idea of someone existing in different times and places and even being different people all at once is a really interesting one and I look forward to seeing this expanded upon in future books. I love that it’s a take on Arthurian Legend, but so different to the usual.
Two things worried me slightly – first, I’m pretty sure there’s a Beano character called Gordon Bennett, which had me a little nervous, on the author’s behalf, of a writ from D C Comics. Second, there was a slight tendency to give accents to the bad or flawed characters: gossiping old eighteenth century ladies wanting to burn someone as a witch and a young bully in Gordon’s school. The main characters – for ease of reading, I suspect, have no accents. However, the result is an unwitting generalism that a well-spoken middle class boy like Gordon, who drops no aitches = good, while the lad with the strong local accent who beats up his fellows = bad. In a children’s book like this, I could imagine that might cause a few raised eyebrows among British readers. That said, it might just be me as I have to fess up to a certain amount of personal baggage about class (an imaginary concept which should be put into Room 101 and left there to rot).
So to sum up: once you’re used to the style then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy this book. Minor quibbles aside, I’d definitely recommend it. There is promise of all sorts of adventures for Gordon as the series unfolds and I’ll definitely be following them closely. I hardly ever give a book five stars these days but I think I have to give this one 4.9 at least (so that’s a five as dammit on Goodreads and Amazon). I enjoyed it, I was caught up in it, I thought about the characters when I wasn’t reading and it’s very well written.