David’s mother has succumbed to a long illness, leaving David alone with his unimaginative father. Long before David has emerged from his own mourning process, his father remarries and a new baby is on the way. After moving into his stepmother’s ancestral home, David feels more and more like a stranger.
His mother had long ago introduced him to books, teaching him that without David reading their words and turning their pages, they simply cannot exist. David’s new bedroom is filled with books that belonged to a boy who mysteriously vanished, and though he yearns to know more, he can’t bring himself to be civil enough to his stepmother to even have a conversation.
And he’s not sure, but he’s pretty sure that he can hear the books talking to him, calling to him.
Feeling more and more alienated from his father, stepmother, and new half-brother, David retreats to his books and into his mind. Never a totally healthy child, he experiences strange seizures that leave him unconscious and drained. He acts out against his father and stepmother, refusing to speak and accepting punishment for his bad attitude.
On one fateful night, as German planes fly low in the London sky, David is drawn to the large garden by what he swears is his mother’s voice. He soon finds himself in a world of knights and monsters, sleeping maidens and dangerous trolls. His only salvation seems to be an ailing king who clings to The Book of Lost Things, his most prized possession.
Connolly deftly and magically transforms fairy tales – the old tales we all learned early in life – into scary, mind-blowing obstacles. David is faced with opposition from The Loups, half-human, half-wolf, fear that David’s presence could mean their destruction, and ferociously hunt him across the land. Terrifying and fantastic two-faced creatures block his path, helpful friends make unbelievable sacrifices, and David is forced to face that which he would have rather hidden from forever.
This amazing tale is one of love, fear, growth, and acceptance. It’s about facing those fears and learning to accept what you cannot change.
Connolly’s writing is so deliciously descriptive that I found myself reading paragraphs more than once. Not because I didn’t fully understand what I had read, but because the words seemed to flow off of the page and become real. I wanted to experience them again and again. Take this sentence, for example:
“On more than one occasion, David, in his urge to explore the darker corners of the bookshelves, had found himself wearing strands of spider silk in his face and hair, causing the web’s resident to scuttle into a corner and crouch balefully, lost in thoughts of arachnid revenge.”
Arachnid revenge? How awesome is that?! I loved this book. I hope you do, too.