Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The "Corydon" books - Tobias Druitt

Tobias Druitt isn't a real person; instead Tobias Druitt is a pseudonym for mother-and-son writing team Diane Purkiss and 11 year old Michael Dowling. Diane is an Oxford Don and the first member of the English Faculty since Tolkien and Lewis to publish a children's book. It's not often I read multi-authored books (I think the only other one I've ever read is the very funny and clever Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, whose narrative is seamless insofar as it's completely impossible to tell who wrote what (and in fact neither author can remember who wrote what as they both amended each others' words). And the narrative in these two books is also fairly seamless, but there are occasional jarring moments when the voice suddenly changes for a sentence or two before reverting back, which I found rather disconcerting.

The first book in the series is Corydon and the Island of Monsters. Corydon is a boy who was thrown out of his village for being born with a goat's leg. He is made the pharmakos (literally the scapegoat) and even his own mother turns against him. He lives for several years as a shepherd, using all his thief's skills to steal sheep from other shepherds on his island in order to build up his own flock. This peaceful way of life is suddenly and dramatically changed when he is captured by some pirates and put into their travelling freak show with other monsters, such as the Minotaur, Medusa the Gorgon, a hydra, a Sphinx and various other "monsters". However, he manages to free the monsters with the aid of a Staff which the pirate captain had used to control the monsters. He leads the group into the mountains. Corydon and Medusa find shelter with two other gorgons, the 10 foot tall bronze-winged bird women, Sthenno and Euryale, who are sisters. But Zeus, king of the classical gods, is alerted to their escape and forces his son, Perseus, to raise an army of heroes to pursue and kill them. When Medusa's baby son is stolen from her by Perseus, the battle becomes personal. Then they find themselves not only facing a devastating army, but they must also try to rescue Medusa's baby. Before they can do so, though, Corydon must travel deep into the Underworld to uncover the secrets of the staff he has.

In the second book, Corydon and the Fall of Atlantis time has passed and life has been fairly peaceful for Corydon and the other monsters since their great battle with the heroes. But then the Minotaur is kidnapped and Corydon and his friends are faced the task of mounting a rescue mission which will lead them on a dangerous voyage across the ocean, all the way to the fabled city of Atlantis. Atlantis is a city divided by a war between the gods that threatens to tear it apart. Poseidon, who is the father of the Medusa's baby, Gorgos, and Athene are fighting for control of Atlantis, and their worshippers are engaged not only in a deadly civil war but also a deadly dangerous sport, katabathos (which is a sort of extreme version of water polo), and at which Gorgos becomes a star player. Somehow Corydon and his friends must survive in the divided city and discover the whereabouts of their friend the Minotaur so that they can rescue him.

I was strongly reminded of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books (which I reviewed here and here) when reading these books, although Jackson's books are funnier and faster-moving. The Corydon books take the idea of semi-divine children of the Greek Gods and stands it on its head, however, since Corydon and Gorgos are both monsters, rather than humans like Percy and his Camp Half-Blood friends. However, the books don't really stand up to comparisons with Riordan's books. I missed Riordan's humour in the Corydon books.

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