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The Faerie Door
B.E. Maxwell
Harcourt, 471 pages

The Faerie Door
B.E. Maxwell
B.E. Maxwell lives in Connecticut. He is married, with two daughters and two grandchildren. He enjoys reading and telling stories. His imagination has been inspired by British fantasy literature. His favorite authors include Edith Nesbit, Francis Hodgeson Burnett, John Masefield, Pamela Travers, Algernon Blackwood, Violet Firth, Charles Williams, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis. J.R.R. Tolkien and Joan Aiken.

B.E. Maxwell Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

"The Shadow Knight covets your rings -- indeed all others besides -- on behalf of another who has sent him. For a wicked sorcerer queen, who can easily move between worlds herself, is endeavouring to make certain that others are prevented from doing so."
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B.E. Maxwell is an American writer captivated by British fantasy literature of the nineteenth century, and the work of Victorian fantasy artists such as Arthur Rackham and John Atkinson Grimshaw. The Faerie Door is his first novel for young readers, aimed at those aged 10 and above. The idea of reviving such a distant style of literature, with almost nothing to bind it to the modern age, is packed with potential. But, it's a task that is not at all easy to accomplish. Today's kids, with their electric education, are far more sophisticated and worldly wise than the readers of the nineteenth century, and there's no getting away from that. B.E. Maxwell's attempt to make such quaint prose appeal to present day readers is made harder by the fact that he is also trying to distil a foreign culture. For as George Bernard Shaw put it, "England and America are two countries divided by a common language."

The story concerns two 11 year-old children, on intertwined quests to find magical orbs that can help thwart a rising evil. Victoria Deveny is from 1890's Britain, where she discovers a magical ring and steps through an equally magical door, into small town America of 1966. There, she meets Elliot Good, who also has a magic ring. Following an almost fatal encounter with a renegade Shadow Knight, the pair escape though yet another magical portal, into Faerieland. They learn of the interwoven worlds and are given quests by the Faerie Queen, which inevitably produces thrills and spills aplenty. Flying pirates, cannibals, dragons, deprivation, noble kings, a boozy were-knight, and an evil queen, it's all here, and much of it is very much standard fantasy fodder. This is not to say that The Faerie Door is without merit or imagination. I loved the squirming black rings on the fingers of Queen Ulricke, the secret of the Shadow Knights, the long spidery hands of transformed faeries Brynn and Sutton, the ring wraith like Lord Kromm, and the deadly, poisoned expanse of the Silent Sea. The tale shifts along nicely, and at times becomes quite dark, which is where it steps out of time's shadow. Parents who like to read to their pre-teen children will find this work undemanding and inoffensive. But is The Faerie Door an entertaining read? Yes, in fits and starts.

My feeling at the end of the book was that many of the supporting characters were more interesting, and had greater depth, than the twin leads. Where B.E. Maxwell lets his creations fly free, the story becomes intriguing. However, the speech patterns he uses in trying to replicate the essence of earlier works, such as the Narnia adventures, the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, and Peter Pan, sometimes drag like pixie weed. Then it all gets a bit twee and predictable. But, another novel is in the works, and I would hope that the author shifts up a gear, perhaps taking inspiration from a later great of British fantasy literature, Alan Garner. The Faerie Door contains elements which would not be out of place in The Moon of Gomrath or The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. It is those creations which I saw as this novel's greatest strengths, and the elements that children familiar with the likes of Lord Voldermort, will enjoy the most.

Copyright © 2009 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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