________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover The Shadow of Malabron. (The Perilous Realm Series).

Thomas Wharton.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
385 pp., hardcover, 2008.
ISBN 978-0-385-66457-8.

Subject Headings:
Fantasy fiction.
Quests (Expeditions)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

*** /4


The figure stepped from the shadows into the flickering firelight. Will saw that it was a man, dressed all in worn-looking garments, his long hair as sleek and dark as a crow’s wing. He carried a short curving bow and a leather quiver of grey-feathered arrows over his shoulder. His eyes glittered in his dusky face. Will’s first thought was that he was a performer from the amusement park, but he quickly banished that idea. There was something unusual about the man’s look and manner, something that held Will’s attention. There was a sense of purpose about this stranger. As if, now that he was here, he was meant to be here. He belonged here, in some way that Will, and even Rowan, did not.

“How did you find the snug?” Rowen asked warily, moving closer to Will. “You don’t have a light.”

“I have eyes, ears, and a nose,” the stranger said. “And this wood is my home. I should know it pretty well, don’t you think?”


This appears to be the first volume of a series about the Perilous Realm, a land where the stories from childhood actually exist. The prologue tells of the fall of a fabled city to the forces of evil and the changing of its princess into a raven by her lover who betrayed them. The hero of the tale, begun in modern times, is Will Lightfoot, a young teenage boy who finds himself thrust into this magic landscape by accident when he takes his father’s motorcycle without permission to go in search of a fairground in a forest he spotted from the family car. Here, Will meets up with some dangerous spectres and is rescued by Rowen, a girl from this land, who takes him to her home and introduces Will to her grandfather, Nicholas Pendrake, a toymaker and member of the local council.

      The Realm is a land where old stories actually take place and are then taken back to our own world to be retold, and everyone is living in a tale of their own. Whatever creatures are found in these stories are found in the Realm; creatures such as goblins, ghosts, wizards, dragons. The land is a blend of a mediaeval world, complete with knights errant, plus some more recent features such as Steam Guilds, and is under threat from forces of evil led by Malabron, the Night King. Malabron wishes to gather up and control all the stories, effectively destroying the land.

      Will sets out to find a way home. He is accompanied by the girl, Rowen, Finn, a young knight errant in training, and Rowen’s grandfather. Pendrake believes that Will is a key or important piece in the struggle against Malabron. They meet up with some interesting characters on their search and have several perilous adventures before coming face-to-face with Malabron’s lieutenant, Loton, also known as the Angel.

      Despite its length, the book is relatively fast moving and offers up enough of a variety of evil-doers and heroic characters to satisfy most fantasy fans. While the quest plot is not new, and the troubled modern protagonist lost in a magic realm has been used frequently, the author brings in enough new ideas, such as a story-book world that is real, to keep it interesting. For example, we uncover the truth about the big bad wolf and Red Riding Hood. The ending wraps up several plot points but leaves enough of the story unfinished that it can continue in further volumes.

      The Shadow of Malabron, with its youthful protagonists, talking animals and strange creatures asking riddles, should appeal to the young fantasy fan fond of epic battles between the forces of good and evil.


Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups and writer’s workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

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