October 26, 2011

Review: worldoflegends.com, by Nigel Osner

Author: Nigel Osner
Title: worldoflegends.com: a tale of two spinners
ISBN: 9781440163203
Publisher: iUniverse (2009)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Henry Prince is a nervous law student who lives in London. One summer he comes across a former school-friend, Rupert, now a spin doctor. Rupert shows Henry a fantasy world, which can be glimpsed through a website. This world contains all sorts of legendary heroes and villains, from human to everything else! Rupert swaps worlds with his look-alike, Rumpelstiltskin. Rupert tries to help some of legend's well known bad guys improve their image. Rumpelstiltskin offers the possibility of limitless gold to a Government minister. Henry, to his very great horror, finds himself transported to the world of legends. There he is known as a hero called Prince Henry and is expected to live up to his name! Ultimately the barrier between both worlds starts to break down, largely because of Rupert's meddling. Henry has to become a big enough hero to set up a new legend of his own, one strong enough to get the fantasy world back on course.“ GoodReads’ blurb


I think I understand what the author has tried to do with worldoflegends.com, and I’m fairly sure I can appreciate it, though it is something slightly different from other titles.

The thing that stood out the most for me was the style: the narration is direct, with a very simple and straightforward grammar, and sentences are short and to the point. This serves to duplicate the tone of a folk fairy tale, and it is quite successful at it.

But while some characters are indeed fairy tale standard, the hero is everything but. Henry Prince, or poor Prince Henry, is so normal that he’s approaching weirdness from the other side. He used to believe in magic, but then he had an... experience, and he grew up. He grew up so much that even his father wanted him to cause more mischief, so that he resembled an actual guy his age! So, no exactly legend stock. To have his pragmatic – and, yes, we shall point our “cowardly” as well – in contrast to the strange world where legends inhabit served to make for plenty of awkward moments, and thanks to the dry style the punch lines were delivered to their best effect. There was a long, tough journey wherein Henry tries to learn to fit in the role that’s been trust upon his shoulders, though, and it was nice to see the bounds and leaps and crab-like crawling that made him evolve into... well, into something more fitting.

As in any fairy tale worth its salt, there was romance – and it was cute and sweet, predictable and sudden in the way of those old prince and princess tales that we are all, deep down, so fond of. Still, there weren’t enough sweet scenes to hijack the action, and I liked that as much as the romance itself.

The things I’m not so happy about? Mainly, I had to qualms of sorts: on the one hand, the point of view follows Henry so closely, and the poor man is so confused, that I found myself quite dumbstruck as to the “why” it happened. There was, indeed, a satisfying explanation of “how” it came to be, so I guess that’s covered... But still, I’d have liked to be able to actually understand what Rupert was doing. Is he the villain? An ally? Was he one and then realized the wrong of his actions and switched to the other?  Was he a player by himself? If so, why the random help supplied? I felt Rupert, the Spinner, was a character with potential, and would have liked to read more on his side.

There is something truly unique and hilarious about the cast of every folk tale and myth and legend you can think of having their own personal PR agent, no?

On the other hand, the ending caught me by surprise. I’m still trying to come to grips with it. The story seemed to follow a classic line, and to be peppered with humor, a (not so) slight dose of sarcasm, and a not heroic hero we could be fond of, without making the mistake of admiring. But then, things take a turn for the epic... Even for the dramatic! And I was left gaping at the sudden change in atmosphere and, I’ll admit, slightly miffed at the fate of some side-characters.

However, there were some funny comments in the full-blown battle as well...

In any case, the end came hard and fast and, when it was done, there was openness in its wake.

This book needs a sequel. There are so many unresolved things, so many possibilities, that they deserve to be explored. And, as it happens in these cases, it’ll be the sequel and how it’s handled the one telling whether this is as enjoyable as it can be or not. So, for now, I can just say that, if you like humor and classic folk, you might like worldoflegends.com as long as the style fits with you. Do check it out if that’s the case...

I’ll wait a bit longer and come back to scream in your face, “Read it!”, depending on how the follow-up turns out.

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