by Jonathan Stroud
Having only read three books by Mr. Stroud so far, I feel bold enough to make note of some common threads in his work. One is the captivating way he combines elements of ancient lore with a modern setting, to create tantalizingly weird fantasies that absolutely reek with menace. Another is the way you find yourself chewing your nails in suspensea funny kind of suspense, too: where you arent worried about the hero dying or the good guys losing, but youre kept up all night by the thought that the main character might end up evil.
Or, in this case, that she might be losing her mind.
The thing that sets The Leap apart from Buried Fire and The Amulet of Samarkand is that fact that, even after youve read the last sentence, you cant be entirely sure whether its a fantasy novel or a psychological thriller. Is young Charlie in danger from beings that dwell in another world, beings who delight in luring unwary humans to their doom? Or is she simply suffering from a psychotic episode resulting from her best friends death, which she refuses to accept, and her own nearly fatal attempt to save his life?
It starts in the hospital, with Charlie (a.k.a. Charlotte) reliving the supposed drowning of her pal Max. From memories of green-haired, green-skinned women beckoning from the weedy bottom of the millpool, Charlie progresses to disturbing dreams in which she finds herself pursuing Max across a vast, deserted countryside. Soon, her dreams are all that she lives for, while her mother and brother worry themselves sick about the mess that is Charlies waking life. And then, on the advice of a person in her dream world, Charlie begins searching for Max in the waking world tooechoes of his presence.
By the end, either the two worlds come close enough together for one to pass directly between them, or Charlie simply forgets how to distinguish the real world from the world of fantasy. Which do you think it is? The book wont make it easy to decide. What it does make clear, though, is the growing danger Charlie is in, from the death-dealing, deceiving dwellers in her world of dreams. Whether or not her brother Jamie is right, and Charlie is mad, you will surely be breathlessly caught up in his race to stop her from pursuing the elusive Max to her own destruction.
Recommended Age: 14+
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