Author: Teresa Flavin
Release date: 1st July 2010 UK
Genre: Fantasy Adventure/ YA
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Templar
An old painting... A strange labyrinth... The sudden appearance of skeletons in a locked room... For centuries, Blackhope Tower has been shrouded in intrigue, which seems to centre around a curious painting hanging in the Mariner's Chamber. Its meaning has baffled historians, but when fourteen-year-old Sunni Forrest visits the tower, she finds herself transported to the very heart of the Blackhope enigma, and the painting itself. Can she and her friend Blaise overcome its dangers and evade their ruthless pursuers? And will they find their way home...alive? An age-old mystery is about to unravel.
The Blackhope Enigma is an adventurous, fun and intelligent story about three children who happen to find themselves in an alternate world, as well as about their pursuers and friends they meet on their quest to simply return home.
One day, Sunni Forrest and her art-class friend Blaise see with their own eyes how Sunni's (younger) stepbrother Dean disappears while standing on the labyrinth in the floor of the Mariner's Chamber in Blackhope Tower, whispering a word he had just learned for fun and to annoy Sunni, and suddenly, they see him in the famous painting - The Mariner's Return to Arcadia - painted by the renowned Italian Renaissance painter Fausto Corvo. This happens while Sunni and Blaise are sketching Fausto's painting for their project on Corvo. Sunni follows Dean into the painting bravely, determined to bring her stepbrother back, and the next day, despite Sunni's wishes, Blaise follows them.
The three children find themselves in a world created by Fausto Corvo, who knew how to practice magic. It is a world inside the painting, consisting of several layers, each offering a unique world of its own. People live inside the painting, unaware of how much time has passed outside, as the world that is Arcadia is too perfect and inviting to leave. And inside the painting, a few months means that about two hundred years have passed in the real world. The children meet friends who want to assist them and also greedy enemies who are after Corvo's secret masterpieces believed to be hidden inside Arcadia. The children simply want to return home, but instead they enter a great and dangerous adventure quite unexpectedly.
The author created a great, exciting and exotic world, or rather worlds inside the painting. Arcadia looks perfect, but there are many dangers lurking in the shadows. I truly liked the concept behind Arcadia and its history. This place was created by a famous painter, well-known for the mysteries that still surround him. He was so well-described and his presence in the novel so well-established that one could easily believe he was an actual historical person, instead of being a fictional character. Arcadia seemed really cleverly constructed to me and the author gave the notion of parallel worlds her own mark. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll in this respect - like Alice, the children stumble into a new, parallel world unexpectedly and encounter many strange and interesting things and creatures/people - but as I've said, Flavin definitely created her parallel world in her own way.
The characters are well-constructed and fun to read about. What I truly appreciate about the three children is the fact that especially Sunni and Blaise do not spend their free time hanging around the local mall or watching TV. They sketch whenever they can and show great interest in art. They cherish knowledge, have a well developed logical way of thinking and are very inquisitive. That was a nice change from all the teenage characters that are either stoned all the time or have the minds of a fifty-year-old academic. Sunni and Blaise are still obviously fourteen years old, but they grasp for knowledge and want to know the world they live in.
The plot was really fun and adventurous, quite tense at times. It definitely kept me turning the pages. It ran smoothly and I was interested in the story throughout the novel. All questions I had were answered, so there were no loose ends left, which I appreciate a lot. Everything worked out just fine and there was no ambiguity. Perhaps things worked out a bit too conveniently for the children once they had to explain why they went missing. But then again, that might just be nit-picking on my part. There are open-minded individuals everywhere, so anything is possible, really.
All in all, this was a very fun adventurous fantasy and will definitely prove to be a treat for those who like fantasy, adventures and a touch of mystery. I have to point out that I don't often read fantasy books, yet still, I found this novel to be a riveting and original read.
Becky says: Thank you to Irena for sharing her thoughts on The Blackhope Enigma. It sounds such a vivid and magical book which returns to some of the traditions of children's classics. Both our thanks go to Templar/ Bounce Marketing for sending the book to review.