Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Anatopsis - Chris Abouzeid

Chris Abouzeid's Anatopsis is his first novel for children, although he's previously published both poetry and short stories. The tale of Anatopsis was actually begun 20 years ago, but it has only just been published by Dutton (New York).

The Princess Anatopsis Solomon wants to be a knight-errant, like her part-mortal father Sir Christopher. Her Immortal mother, however, who is the Chairwoman of Amalgamated Witchcraft Corporation, intends her immortal daughter to take over the family business. To this end, the Queen hires a new tutor, the demigod Mr. Pound, to help Ana prepare for her Bacchanalian exams that she will take in a year's time when she is 14. Unfortunately Mr. Pound’s plans for Ana go far beyond the mere completion of her education. He is searching for the mysterious and powerful Os Divinitas, and if he finds it, nothing will survive. Ana, her mortal friend Clarissa, Prince Barnaby Georges (the son of her mother's enemy King Georges), and Barnaby's companion Uno (who is the last dog in the Universe), must do all they can to prevent Mr Pound from finding the remains of the Os Divinitas. Barnaby has a talent for building mechanical things (which is just as well since his magical talents are negligible); Uno can talk; Clarissa has a thirst for knowledge that's fuelled by all the books available in Ana's mother's library; and Ana has far greater magical powers than even she realises. They join forces with some of the last few mortals on Earth to locate Prometheus' gift to Man - not merely fire, this time, but the mysterious power of the Gods, without which the Gods have perished, and which has given mortals the power to create and imagine.

This book, whilst it features some good humoured moments, is completely gripping and offers yet another fascinating take on the idea that Humanity's gifts of knowledge and imagination were not intended for us (much as Philip Pullman suggests in the His Dark Materials trilogy - which is not to suggest Abouzeid got the idea from Pullman). The story also takes a sideways look at how those same gifts are now blighting the Earth: much as pollution has damaged the atmosphere, causing global warming, the side effects of the many spells cast by witches and warlocks in Anatopsis' world have choked much of the Earth, and mortals are forced to live in an area known as the Grotto, which is rotten with the after-effects of spells (particularly curses) and nearly uninhabitable.

I look forward to further books from Chris Abouzeid: his characters are well drawn, lively and very human, even the Immortal ones ! If you're interested in learning more about Chris, check out his website.

1 comment:

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