Book Review: “Farperoo” (“The Dark Inventions” Vol. II) by Mark Lamb

Accio Book!

Author Mark Lamb was kind enough to send me an “advance review copy” of Farperoo Volume II, – and I blew it. Since I don’’t want to waste space in this column making excuses, all I will say is that I hope Mr. Lamb will excuse me for taking so long to review his book. There was a whole series of ridiculous circumstances, and I’’m sure you’’d all love to hear the story, but then you would suspect me of inventing things, and that’’s the job of Lucy, the heroine in the “Dark Inventions” series.

At first, I thought Farperoo Volume I was the first of four parts of the “Dark Inventions” series. It wasn’’t until I received Volume II and Mr. Lamb’’s accompanying letter that I realized that the first part was, itself, divided into at least three volumes. So the first thing you should note about this series is that it is planned on a vast scale. It is also vastly complex, taking place in several strange worlds and peopled by multitudes of characters, many of them profoundly weird. There are angels (some of them evil), Dementor-like demons, giant killer scarab beetles, a mermaid, a talking living ornithopter, a sorcerer, a rabid journalist, a demented emperor, a talking puppet, a handbag with eight legs and teeth, a spirit of death, and at the center of it all, a girl named Lucy who is coming to terms with her power to tell stories that come to life and to travel between parallel worlds, if not create them.

Lucy has lots of enemies, and her small group of friends is in an increasingly difficult spot as this story progresses. She is being pursued from world to world by mind-destroying fiends and a vengeful angel named Raziel. Her path takes her to scenes of violence, destruction, and squalor and possibly to the end of a whole world. And of course, when this volume ends, there is much more adventure to look forward to.

This is definitely a tale for a compulsive reader to enjoy. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it all at one time, but neither can I blame author Lamb for that, nor do I want to go into my excuses for taking so long to read this book (but holiday travels and moving houses were involved, hint, hint).

On the other hand, I may have been better motivated to read this volume in a handful of sittings, if, once again (see my review of the first volume) the over-sized page format were not so taxing to my eyeballs and my attention span. Yes, readers, of all the things to complain about, I will again pick on the physical layout of the book. I kept finding myself wanting to pick up a narrower book instead, even though I enjoyed the many original fantasy elements of Lucy’’s adventure. So even when I was officially “reading” this book, I was also reading (and finishing) quite a number of other books. And the more I dilly-dallied, the harder it was for me to “track” the many characters, events, and plot threads that could have made this book such a richly satisfying experience.

I enjoyed Matthew S. Armstrong’’s full-page illustrations. Lamb’’s storytelling created its own rich gallery of images as well. At times, though, I was a little challenged to picture the events and characters in my mind’’s eye or to hear their dialogue in my mind’’s ear. Perhaps, again, this is due to the gaps in my attention span, and perhaps, again, the book design bears some blame. Perhaps it is merely because I share a habit of laziness with many other compulsive readers, a trait Mr. Lamb should take into account as he targets our type of audience. Or perhaps it is a sign of the respect Mr. Lamb has for his readers, that he trusts them to be able and willing to do some work, to pick up on subleties, and to join a marvelous tale in mid-stride, filling in some blanks with their own imaginations and waiting trustingly for him to fill in others as the story goes along.