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Hyddenworld: Spring by William Horwood

1/04/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Hyddenworld: Spring in the USA - or Buy Hyddenworld: Spring in the UK

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pub: Pan Macmillan. 505 page hardback. Price: GBP 16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-230-71260-7.

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Jack is special and so is Katherine. They do not know yet that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. They are just children, afraid in the storm when they meet. Jack is on his way to a foster home. His appearance from nowhere has left social services scratching their heads. Katherine has a loving family but soon she will suffer her own losses and be joined to Jack in tragic circumstances.

In the Hyddenworld there are problems, too. The time of immortal Spring is nearly over. Her long passage over the Earth has taken fifteen hundred years but now she is nearing the end and seeks out a successor. Many of the Hydden are interested in this. In particular, the gangly young Hydden, Bedwyn Stort, is intellectually curious and it is his fate is to meet the immortal known as Spring to aid her in the quest. A human called Arthur Foal who has long believed in the Hydden world also seeks knowledge and it is his disappearance which becomes part of the story of Katherine and Jack.

This is part one of a proposed four book run with the names of the seasons. It is set around Birmingham or, as it is known to the Hydden, ‘Brum’ and it describes an area which is familiar to me, imbuing it, as did Tolkein with a deeper magic. The opening is in the Waseley Hills outside Brum which is the name the Hydden give to their capital, part of the unseen structure of Birmingham. Who would have thought the industrial heartland of England would be home to the unseen faerie folk?

I enjoyed the descriptive parts of the book. I felt it offered a new look at the concept of the unseen little people which is fresher than the jaded views presented in many books about fairies. It has an interesting premise and some likeable and developing characters. I did feel the characters lacked depth with the plot moving on regardless. I actually preferred the more striking Hydden who were more sharply drawn. There is the inevitable comparison with ‘Twilight’ or ‘Harry Potter’ whenever a book focuses on teen-age protagonists. I would have liked more focus on Arthur as an older counterpoint to Jack and Kathryn and some insight into his and his wife’s world. On the plus side, methods of moving between human and Hydden realities are beautifully structured and the interaction with and between the Hydden are nice and peppery, giving them more than twee fairy status. I liked the Hydden very much and think the series which follows with Summer has the potential to have an impact.

Sue Davies

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