Review: (D) A Tale of Two Worlds by Michel Faber

(D): A Tale of Two Worlds was a delightfully weird, middle-grade portal fantasy in the tradition of Narnia and the The Phantom Tollbooth, but I couldn’t help wanting more from it than I got.

It follows a young girl named Dhikilo, who was adopted from the country of Somaliand when she was a baby and relocated to the town of Cawber-by-Sands in England. She is somewhat of an outsider in her small community, a sense that only increases when she seems to be the only one who notices the disappearance of the letter D from the alphabet. This bizarre occurrence sends her on a path to discovering the strange world of Limnus in the attic of her eccentric former teacher Professor Dodderfield, aided by his shapeshifting seeing eye dog slash sphinx Mrs. Robinson.

This had all the elements of a brilliant portal fantasy: the door in the attic! Villages of strange and exciting creatures! A mysterious evil despot and an unending winter! Some may decry the similarities between this novel and others of its ilk, but part of the charm is the way in which it emulates traditional stories while injecting new life and new humor. The omniscient, ever-present narrator is dry and clever, providing tongue and cheek commentary on various aspects of the story. Faber’s writing style fits naturally to this wry tone, which serves a dual purpose of providing insight and grounding some of the more fantastical elements of the story.

My biggest problem was that 3/4 of the book was spent building up to a confrontation that felt ultimately lackluster. As it feels like a children’ novel I can’t complain too much about the lack of stakes, but I was expecting a far more bombastic confrontation with the Gamp, the Magwitches, and the factory powered by stolen D’s. There were a lot of uncomfortable hanging edges such as the voice Dhikilo heard in her cell, and the original group of Magwitches that she came across. The ending in general felt disappointingly rushed, focusing on getting Dhikilo back to her world as fast as possible without allowing for the repercussions, both emotional and physical, of her journey to percolate.

I enjoyed this book, but echoing many of the other reviewers I have seen, I can’t help but feeling as though some of the magic was lost from it by reading is as an adult. I feel like as a child I would have enjoyed this with a much less critical eye

Published by Emma Wolfe

My name is Emma, and I am a Clinical Psychology PhD hopeful doing research in Boston. In my spare time, I am also a book reviewer and blogger. I specialize in science fiction and fantasy, but enjoy genre-bending literature of all kinds. I am also an amateur creative writer; my work has been published in national undergraduate literary magazines such as The Albion Review and the Allegheny Review.

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