Stories have great power. Through stories we learn about people, places and events. Stories can inspire and entertain, they connect us and help us to make sense of information and understand how it applies to our own lives. Stories require inspiration and imagination. Sometimes one story inspires another. The Narnia chronicles are classics that have affected readers for many years leaving a lasting impression on generations of readers. They inspired Piers Torday to create the world of Folio. In The Lost Magician we met the four children who discovered this special land and were thrilled by the adventure they took part in that brought peace to Folio. In The Frozen Sea, forty years after the first instalment, another child must embark on a dangerous quest to rescue a long lost relative in this remarkable world of stories and imagination.
Inspired by The Silver Chair this story begins in a similar way with Jewel Hastings trying to escape from school bullies just as Jill did in the earlier story. While hiding in a mysterious old bookshop she discovers an atlas through which Jewel, and her pet hamster Fizz, are transported to the land of Folio. In the Land Of the Reads she finds herself in the Idea Jungle and she and Fizz, who is now miraculously able to talk, are sent by the Librarian, the ruler of this place, on a quest to rescue her Aunt Evie who had returned to Folio.
The premise of discovering and visiting imaginary worlds using books, bookshops or libraries as a portal is immensely appealing to any of us who have felt transported to another place when reading. The world created by Piers Torday is a vivid one, at times beautiful and inspiring then within a few pages sinister and frightening. What makes this world deeply affecting is the place of technology within it. Setting the story in 1984 ensures that Jewel’s experience of computers and technological gadgets is confined to early video games and a much prized combined radio and double cassette recorder. She is bewildered by the robots, the rapid communication systems and the personal access to instant information that the UnReads of Folio have at their disposal. As an adult reader there are many moments of unsettling recognition as we watch how the citizens of Folio are dominated by the Stampstone worn on their wrists. Piers Torday demonstrates how the advancement of technology and the digital revolution can be both a blessing and a curse. The opportunities provided by the development of AI are touched upon and Jewel and Fizz are accompanied on their epic journey by a robot named Pandora.
There are many interesting themes and ideas conveyed throughout this imaginative and exciting adventure. As we follow Jewel who displays courage, loyalty and intelligence as she battles with enemies and the elements on her journey we learn that access to knowledge gives power and that this power may sometimes be used for ill. The manipulation of information, the inability to form one’s own opinion and the reliance on others’ ideas are all displayed in various scenarios. But the resilience of the human spirit and loyalty and love for family and friends play an equally important part in this book.
All of these ideas are wrapped up in an absolutely thrilling adventure. There is danger at every turn and the reader is never completely sure which characters are trustworthy and which are not which adds to the tension. Jewel is a fabulous protagonist and one that you very quickly warm to. Fizz definitely deserves a mention too. A hamster with a slightly cynical approach to life and a dry sense of humour he provides some very entertaining and amusing moments.
The intricate chapter headings and the stunning cover are by Ben Mantle. I think the cover illustrations capture the essence of the story beautifully and removing the dust jacket reveals an unexpected bonus on the hardback copy.
It would, I think, be possible to read and enjoy this book without having read The Lost Magician as the necessary plot points are covered within this sequel however for added enjoyment it would help to have met the various characters and to have visited Folio already.
The very best children’s books do more than entertain, they encourage the reader to think, to question and inspire them to read more widely. The skill of Piers Torday as a story writer is that he writes about the subjects he cares about with such passion that the reader is inspired to care too.
The Frozen Sea is now available to purchase in all good bookshops or online