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The Land of Lost Things by John Connolly: Irresistible fantasy sequel

John Connolly lures readers back to Elsewhere in inverse tale of mother maintaining a vigil beside her daughter’s beside

The Land of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
ISBN-13: 978-1529391800
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Guideline Price: £18.99

In 2006, John Connolly released The Book of Lost Things, a critically acclaimed and beloved coming of age fairy-tale fantasy novel that found 750,000 readers across the globe. David, 12 years old and grieving the loss of his mother, was the captivating protagonist who found refuge on a quest in Elsewhere, the otherworld that he was propelled into. At the heart of the novel was a child grieving the loss of his mother. Seventeen years have passed since that novel took the literary world by storm, although Connolly has ultimately sold more than eight million copies of his other books, notably the Charlie Parker series. Now, in a much-longed-for sequel, Connolly has finally decided to re-enter the land of Elsewhere.

Our new protagonist is Ceres, a mother who maintains a vigil beside her daughter’s beside after a car accident has left her comatose. As such, the new fable is an inverse of what came before – this time a parent is grieving the loss of a child. A creepy old house on the hospital grounds has been abandoned by the author who lived there, David, who in this reality is the author of The Book of Lost Things. Inevitably, Ceres is drawn in and thus embarks on a mission to save her daughter.

All the ingredients that made the initial Elsewhere novel so irresistible to readers are in the mix once again – a grieving protagonist, rich folkloric tradition, fairy-tale lyricism and a fantasy land full of other beings, including some of the distinctive characters from the first book. What Connolly could not recreate, however, is the unexpected surprise and delight of discovery that infused the first book with its spellbinding magic. Comparison is the thief of joy, and Connolly’s work here is no exception. To truly electrify the original fanbase, this novel would have perhaps required something more distinctive, more unique.

Nonetheless, those who loved The Book of Lost Things will not want to miss this second chance to revisit the world that, once upon a time, set their imaginations on fire. As a standalone novel, this new adventure should also work its magic on fans of dark fairy tales fused with contemporary life – Grimm’s for grown-ups. Driven by questions of sacrifice, loyalty and unconditional love, this fantasy is grounded by very real-world conditions of the human heart. Perhaps the answers to big questions such as these can only be found Elsewhere.

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a novelist and critic