by Chris Wooding, Cassandra Diaz (Scholastic, 2012)
If you've read Chris Wooding's excellent and critically acclaimed Havoc series, you'll want to get your hands on the terrific Pandemonium, a tongue-in-cheek paranormal adventure that's inventive, intriguing and super cute.
Seifer Tombchewer has it all. He's the star athlete of his small, tucked-away-in-the-mountains-home of Crowscale Village, a tiny town in the remotest part of the kingdom of Darkling Plain; he's the apple of his father's eye, and the most popular kid in town. But life in a small town is a little too plain for Seifer, who wants to take off and see the rest of the world. He gets his wish unexpectedly when he's knocked unconscious, taken prisoner and brought to the royal palace, the seat of power for Darkling Plain, where he is established in place of the missing Prince Talon, who is his exact double.
The resemblance ends there. The generous, bright and brave Seifer couldn't be more different than the cruel, calculating and cold-hearted Prince Talon. The lack of bad behavior is soon noticed, as Seifer, under pressure from a scene-stealing old courtier who is trying to keep the kingdom from falling apart, does his best to cope with death threats and other obstacles in his attempt to convince everyone he is Prince Talon.
There are demons, dragon battles, a Quidditch-style game called Skullball, magic and a pretty love interest for Seifer who isn't the royal fiance Prince Talon of Pandemonium is supposed to be marrying. And yes, Pandemonium does seem to be influenced by stories like The Prince & the Pauper and The Man in the Iron Mask, but it's also very witty and original in its own way. The world of the Darkling Realm is dark and stylish without being frightening.
The characters are top notch. Seifer displays just enough sarcasm in the face of danger to make him behave exactly like a real teenager. It also creates multiple opportunities for lots of witty and humorous dialogue, one of the chief joys of the book. The story may be familiar but this rendition is so lively and energetic that it's hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm.
The manga-influenced art works well with the story. The action is mostly well drawn, if a touch confusing in some of the action scenes, though this could be due to the fact that much of that background scenery for the entire novel is composed of dark tones, with shades of blue and gray dominating. Overall, though, Diaz does a good job of conjuring up a vivid, mysterious, mystical world. I hope that Pandemonium will develop into a series, seeing as Wooding left plenty of room at the end for more.
8 September 2012
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