Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
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*****The Ropemaker

by Peter Dickinson

Reviewed February 25, 2002.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#2, Young Adult and Children's Fantasy and Science Fiction)
Delacorte Press, 2001.  375 pages.
Available at Sembach Library.  JF DIC

Peter Dickinson is married to one of my all-time favorite authors, Robin McKinley.  So I was pleased to discover that his work is also excellent.

After reading the first few chapters of this book, I realized that in the last few years I’ve read several children’s fantasy books that have attempted to do what Peter Dickinson completely carried off.  How does he do it so beautifully?  If only I knew, and could manage it myself.

The story is the archetypal quest.  Tilja lives in a mythical land, and something is going wrong, threatening their way of life in the valley.  She must go on a quest to set things right.  Within a couple of chapters, Peter Dickinson has us completely wrapped up in the story, understanding what is at stake and the special magical setting of this land.

I’ve long had the theory that authors can keep the reader at a distance by saying too much about a character’s emotions too soon.  Mr. Dickinson doesn’t fall into that trap.  When the book opens, Tilja’s mother is in danger.  He doesn’t have to tell us that she’s upset about it.  He also explains plenty of background information without losing our interest.  The second chapter is in the form of a legend that Tilja’s family has passed down.  I liked that way of giving background.  We were already interested in the characters, and it established a mythical flavor to the story.

He continues as expertly as he starts.  Slowly, along with Tilja, we come to understand the new land into which they must travel, and what they must do to accomplish their quest.  Tilja discovers an unexpected power, and ends up holding the fate of her world in her hands.  The story is gripping and moving.  If you like fantasy, this is a good one.

Reviews of other books by Peter Dickinson:
Tears of the Salamander
with Robin McKinley
Fire, with Robin McKinley

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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