Friday 24 January 2014
#CBR6 Book 4: "The Twistrose Key" by Tone Almhjell
Rating: 4 stars
Eleven-year-old Lindelin "Lin" Rosenquist is mourning the death of her pet vole, Rufus, and miserable in her new home away from her best friend and childhood haunts. One dark evening, she receives a mysterious package labelled "Twistrose" with a rose-shaped key inside. She discovers that the key unlocks a strange portal in the cellar under the house, and the portal leads to the magical kingdom of Sylver, entirely populated by animals with some kind of special bond to children on Earth. The petlings are deceased pets, and the Wilders are ones that were tamed, and in Sylver they have ways of watching over their beloved friends.
Lin is overjoyed to discover that not only is she reunited with Rufus, but he is now nearly as big as she is, and can talk to her. Lin soon discovers that in times of great need for Sylver, children who can help the eternally snow-covered kingdom are called. These children are called Twistroses, and Lin is the latest of them. She needs to find the missing Winterfyrst quickly, before the sinister and mysterious Margrave and his army of snow trolls take over the kingdom, and make it impossible for Lin to ever return home to her family.
While Scandinavian authors seem to be the big thing in the mystery genre nowadays, they're not really known in the fantasy genre, certainly not internationally. Yet Tone Almhjell, with her Masters' degree in English literature, got a profitable book deal from a subdivision of Penguin for her debut novel before it was even published in Norwegian. That the book was also favourable reviewed in a lot of places after its release made me curious, and the beautiful cover made me determined to own the book. While she apparently began writing the book in English, she wrote the majority of it in English once she secured the international book deal, and proceeded to translate the English manuscript back to Norwegian with her sister for a later Norwegian release. As the Norwegian version has a waiting list of about six months, I ended up buying the English version from Amazon.
There are clear influences from a lot of other fantasy series here, the most obvious ones probably being The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind in the Willows and His Dark Materials. Lin is a plucky, brave and clever protagonist initially staggered by the seriousness of her task. Yet she doesn't back down from her challenge and with the help of the sometimes less than helpful Rufus, she starts to investigate the disappearance of young Isvan Winterfyrst.
The book is clearly written to hold the attention of a young audience. There is a lot of action, suspense and many many cliff hangers, making sure you are rarely bored. There are mysterious allies, and dastardly villains and a convoluted plot that needs to be foiled. While I though the inclusion of many traditional Norwegian elements was very cute, I'm not sure they'd be obvious to non-Norwegian readers, as they might just seem like fantasy ideas to add to the verisimilitude of the fantasy world building. At the beginning of each chapter, there are also lovely illustrations, by Jan Schoenherr, adding to
I saw a couple of reviews on Goodreads complaining that the author's English isn't up to scratch. I'm an English teacher, and read pretty much exclusively English books, and while there was the occasional turn of phrase that read as very Norwegian to me, I think Almhjell's editors have done a good job, and if I hadn't known that the author is a Norwegian, I would just have thought she was taking poetic licence with the language. I'm not sure if Almhjell is planning to turn this into a longer series, but this book is self-contained, and made me interested in checking out more Norwegian fantasy.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.