‘A perfect combination for a children’s book with strong and believable characters and an exciting and unpredictable plot … It kept me turning those pages, unable to guess what was going to happen next … a wonderful mix of magic and reality that reminds me of the early books in the Harry Potter series.’
The Mirror of Pharos
by J S Landor
Category: Confident Readers
Reviewer: Z J Cookson
12 year-old Jack Tideswell is not your typical adventurer. In fact, he spends most of his time trying to prevent his Nan worrying and trying to avoid the gang of school bullies. This, however, changes when a seagull delivers a strange package through the cat flap. Suddenly everything is different. Jack finds himself briefly catapulted into the future and then into the past. It takes him a long time to understand what’s happening but luckily he has several friends to help him. There is his best friend from school, Charlie (occasionally known as Charlotte), the people he meets in the past and the future (several of whom claim to have met him before), the stranger Jago Flyn, and the magical wolf, Alpha. With their help, Jack learns that he’s a fledging Magus (a true magician) and comes to realise that he alone can prevent a Titanic-like disaster in the future. Sadly one of his friends isn’t everything they claim to be. Will Jack realise in time?
The Mirror of Pharos has a perfect combination for a children’s book with strong and believable characters and an exciting and unpredictable plot.
Our main character, Jack, is easy to identify with and he quickly gains the reader’s sympathy in the early scenes with the school bullies. Jack is supported by a strong cast of characters from his slightly unconventional and loyal best friend Charlie to the mysterious Jago Flyn. My personal favourite was undoubtedly Nan. There’s something special about her from the moment she appears crashing the pots and pans to wake her grandson up. We just know there’s also something unusual, and perhaps even magical, about this particular old lady. For example, I loved the way Nan’s recipes always have a hint of something strange – like the weirdly delicious candyfloss flavoured biscuits that remind Jack of summers at the fair, or the treacle pudding that makes Charlie think about bike racing on hot tarmac on a summer’s day.
While the human characters are all well-rounded, it’s the two principal animal characters who especially jump off the page. I suspect most readers will adore the all-powerful wolf, Alpha. For me, however, it’s the long-suffering black and white cat Odin who really captured my heart: he definitely needs every one of his nine lives.
The story is clear and well-structured with a particularly satisfying ending. It kept me turning those pages, unable to guess what was going to happen next. The jumps between Jack in the present, to Jack in the future, and then in the past have the potential to be confusing. Fortunately author, J S Landor, handles this skilfully and the story flows well. The complexity of the narrative, however, does mean this book is likely to be most suitable for children who are very strong and confident readers but haven’t yet matured to be interested in the subject matter of ‘teen’ books.
Overall, this is a wonderful mix of magic and reality that reminds me of the early books in the Harry Potter series. If you enjoyed this, I’d suggest you try another series that mixes magic and reality. In the unlikely event you haven’t already read them, you might want to read the Harry Potter books: start with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. Alternatively why not try the wonderful Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes. That starts with Finding the Fox but my personal favourite is the last in the series Feather and Fang by Ali Sparkes.