In the start of this new series, our writers look at some of their favourite books from their childhood and teenage years.
The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley
When I think about my childhood I am immediately reminded of one of my favourite books, The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley. Picked up randomly one day in Waterstones, this book was the first in the Wednesday Tales trilogy that would grip me for most of my formative years. Powerfully visual, fun and whimsical, and one 100% original, this book will always remain a firm favourite. The novel was the first from illustrator Berkeley and his talent for art shines through in the wonderful description throughout the book. Focusing on a young orphan boy, Miles Wednesday, as he runs off with the circus he eventually gets dragged into all sorts of mischief and magic. The concept may not sound original, but the detail to individual characterisation shows the vast imagination Berkeley holds and applies. There’s a magic tiger, a power crazed circus owner, a walking teddy bear, and of course angels… If you want to re-live the magic of your youth this book is perfect as it’s story will appeal to all ages.
The Shadow in the North by Phillip Pullman
Phillip Pullman is mainly known for his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials but the book I feel is one of Pullman’s best novels is a favourite from my childhood, The Shadow in The North. The novel is the second in the Sally Lockhart Series and takes place in 1878, six years after the events of The Ruby in The Smoke. Sally is now a financial consultant and though she loves Frederick she cannot express it just yet. The book is a twist and turn of events that revolve around Sally’s investigation into the loss of a woman’s money, and the power play between companies and business moguls. For a story so complicated it rivals any detective story, Pullman manages to deliver the events clearly, though some are lost along the way to more heart wrenching tragedies. This novel is perfect if you want to explore a female detective without feeling like the mystery is too drawn out. Beautifully crafted, this sequel will always remain in my memory as the first novel to have made me cry. The feminist heroine may never exploit her message but certainly delivers a strong role model for young girls.
Words by Natalie Fordham
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
The books that I loved as a child and a young teen still grace my bookshelves for two very good reasons – they are still fantastic reads, even as I approach my mid-twenties, and I feel a great deal of nostalgia towards them. Eragon by Christopher Paolini is the start of his Inheritance series, which follows the coming of age of a young farm boy named Eragon who discovers a Dragon egg, which then hatches for him. Paolini’s writing is easy to read, and he creates a world which is all encompassing, a world which fascinates from the start, and characters which you truly empathise with. Eragon is the start of an engaging series of books which gets stronger as the series goes on, with ever deepening plot lines and character motivations. Paolini was nineteen when he started writing this novel, and it shows in the developing style which emerges through the series. The themes and writing make this a novel I could pick up again now, and thoroughly enjoy!
The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan
A book I discovered in my early teens thanks to the recommendation of a couple of friends, The Magicians Guild is the start of a series which captured me completely, and made me want to write fantasy novels. Canavan’s creation of a unique world, with a set class system which segregates the right to use magic, is what drew me in to start with, but her characters are what kept me up at night, reading until I had finished the whole trilogy. The main character Sonea, the working class girl whose magic is so powerful that it threatens to flame out, was someone I really identified with as a young girl as I grew into my own personality and identity, with her confusion and anxiety about her place in the world. Canavan created a world which keeps me going back every time she releases a new book set there, as I absolutely devoured the prequel and sequel series she has released in recent years.
Words by Rebecca James
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
The His Dark Materials trilogy (The Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), are children’s books like no other. Following the adventures of Lyra and Will through worlds both real and fictional, the series is instilled from its start to its finish with childlike wonder – of the same kind and quality as can be found in classic children’s tales, such as C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. As well as this, Pullman explores themes that are universally applicable, and that many would deem too mature for a children’s book. He makes it work beautifully though, approaching questions about love, spirituality, freedom, and the intrinsic aspects of humanity, all in a way that is accessible and enjoyable for younger readers, and which has a deep, moving profundity for those same children grown-up, when they return to the books later on in their lives. His Dark Materials exists as both excellent and thrilling children’s books, and as literature in the fullest sense of the word.
Words by Matt Clarson