Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
There have been many novels where world of Other Races, such as Elves, Dwarves and dragons lie in a parallel, unseen dimension lying alongside our own. Usually there is some kind of portal that those in the know can use to get from one to the other. This book is no exception except that here, the two realms were once one.
As the two protagonists are thirteen year-old boys, the book is presumably aimed at the teen market. Although there have been some signs earlier, the story really starts when friends Richard Cranfield and Thomas Bradley camp at the bottom of Richard’s garden next to a remnant of old woodland. When they wake in the morning, they find that they have been drawn into the other place, known locally as Dracofarne. They are met by Toby Nonsuch, and elf-wizard who has foreseen their arrival. He explains that the boys’ world, and the one they now find themselves in were once one but now the humans only remember Dracofarne as legends.
There is a book, called The Key to the Half Worlds that contains spells that could reunite the two worlds. Toby, and most of the inhabitants don’t think this would be a good idea as humans would have problems with the sudden arrival of dragons, giants and trolls, and the elves would struggle with technology. The book can be sealed by two humans with elvish blood. It might be a bit dilute, but both Richard and Thomas have it. Toby needs to take them to where the book is hidden so this can happen. The reason why it has suddenly become urgent is because an evil sorceress called Drusilla, wants to reunite the half worlds and rule over both. Drusilla, however has pre-empted them and stolen the book. Toby, Richard and Thomas are joined by Toby’s sister Ellie set off to retrieve it helped by two red dragons.
The essence of The Key to the Half Worlds is the kind of quest adventure that most young people would appreciate along with the magic, dragons and elves. It does, though have some problems. Because Toby is an adult elf, the boys do not have the opportunity to develop and try out strategies to win the day. It would have had that added excitement if they had been the ones in control of the adventure with Ellie, who is Richard’s age, and the dragons, who are fun, more central. Toby is a bit too knowledgeable, dampening the enthusiasm of the youngsters and the language makes the book seem more serious than it should. There are touches of humour but it could do with more.
At opposite ends of the spectrum, the cover is good, despite there not actually being a key in the story, but it doesn’t shout ‘quest adventure for teens. There is a map inside, showing that the other world has the same geography as ours, but could be more detailed, being no more than a sketch superimposed on an outline of Wales. Having said that, I have seen far worse books produced for this age group and if it gets youngsters reading, it is doing its job.