For a bored, x-box loving teenage boy the local library doesn't seem like an obvious choice of venue for an afternoon's entertainment. Yet that is where Max Bloom, a boy with "less purpose than an ambivalent sloth" finds himself one drizzly afternoon. Browsing a book he discovers a curious note which leads him to the Cornerstone - no ordinary book. It certainly makes his afternoon more interesting when it transports him to another universe, one which needs help saving itself (and Earth) from the Dwellers. Summoned by beautiful 16 year old Merelie Max is torn - delighted to have reason to talk to a gorgeous girl, but baffled by her insistence he must be able to harness the power of all the books on Earth to wordcraft. Yes, she's lovely but these Dwellers are pretty nasty and he's not convinced he can do magic.
This book is a comic fantasy novel. There's some cracking observational humour that really rings true, and plenty of laughs throughout. With the main protagonist being a seventeen year old the humour isn't too adult but a lot of the humour comes from observations about seventeen year old boys that older people would probably find funnier than teens themselves.
I do like fantasy novels like this one that don't take themselves too seriously, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the author has created a great alternative world and society with means of travel to other places and a form of magic I thought was brilliant. As a keen reader I loved the concept of harnessing the power of words and instead of having a God having a Writer. The action was well-paced and there was plenty going on to keep me interested, although the plot is pretty straightforward.
Max is so stereotypical, perpetually bored (until he meets the Cornerstone), mouthy, embarrassed by his mum, but I couldn't help but be on his side. The other characters aren't as strongly drawn but I reacted to them in the way I suspect the author wanted the reader to. I'd love to know more about Merelie and I thought Max's grandad was great.
Nick Spalding has two other books available, comic autobiographies but this is his first novel. I have Life With No Breaks on my kindle, yet to read it. If the humour is in the same vein and as polished, well formatted and proofed as this I'll definitely enjoy it. I was pleased to see Nick's teaser about potential future installments of the series, and liked his insight into how the book was conceived.
Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*