Author: Jenny Nimmo
Release date: 4th April 2011
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Target audience: 8+
UK Publisher: Egmont
Summary from Amazon:
This is a spell-binding new tale spun by a prizewinning storyteller. Gabar wheeled around to see a crowd of thin green creatures creeping towards him. Their wet hair dangled, their red eyes flashed and their long arms swung like slimy vines. 'Camel,' said one. 'Let us take your heavy burdens.' Gabar raised his head and bellowed. But root-like fingers were now reaching for the bag that contained the moon cloak. Timoken has to flee his secret forest kingdom after it is attacked by sneaky, shape-shifting viridees. Protected from birth by a magical moon spider web, he travels with his camel, Gabar, seeking a new kingdom - a new home. Timoken also has magic himself. He can conjure rain from the air, talk to animals and fly high in the air. And when he saves three leopard cubs from a hunter, they become enchanted too, and sworn to protect him. But the powerful, slimy green viridees are always just a breath behind him. They want the moon spider's web. And they will do anything to get it...A stunning adventure that will enthrall any fan of magical fantasy.
The Secret Kingdom is a fantasy adventure with mixes elements of the traditional and the modern to give it a surprising twist.
When I first started reading The Secret Kingdom, I was a little hesitant. Nimmo breaks many rules in the first chapter (which I’ve been learning about in my writing class) and it put me on edge. I certainly admire the author for telling the story her way and by chapter 5 I was ready to let go of my disbelief and become part of this story.
The novel begins with the Queen of the Secret Kingdom worried about her pregnancy. She has been having terrifying nightmares yet when she awakes she cannot remember them. She only has her growing fear for her unborn son. The novel’s viewpoint is a third person narrator (almost omniscient) rather than following the main character. In fact it took me quite a while to be sure that the main character was Timoken – the Queen’s son. You see the Queen also has a first-born daughter Zobayda. They are chosen by a forest jinni to be the keepers of his great magic.
Nimmo does an excellent job of setting up the tension and raising the stakes for the children because the reader knows that Zobayda is not as well protected as Timoken. There is a huge sense of foreboding. Brother and sister leave behind their beloved kingdom and set out on a journey across an unfamiliar world. Timoken and Zobayda lived many many years ago and Nimmo gives them rather unchild-like dialogue. It seemed a little risky to me at first, I didn’t know if it would appeal to the current market. But it did all make sense in the fullness of the story.
Now I’ve finished the book and I know The Secret Kingdom is chock full of action, I am much more confident that the target audience will stick with it. There are many dangers faced by Timoken and Zobayda when they are forced to flee the Secret Kingdom. There is also the ever-present fear of the creatures of the shadow world who hunt them for their magical gifts.
There is a vibrant fantasy world jumping out of every page of the book. The creatures, the setting and the growing evil all give this book a sense of exciting magical adventure.
I preferred the latter half of the book once the other child characters were introduced. I loved their personalities and their more contemporary voices. I certainly think the next book will have the perfect mix of traditional and contemporartry children’s fiction to make it a rip-roaring adventure. The Secret Kingdom is sure to capture young fantasy fans’ imaginations.
Thank you to Egmont Books for sending the book to review.
Read for the British Book Challenge 2011