November 2004

Fighting the dark side

By Martin Booth
Review by
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When Phillippa and Timothy Ledger move from their city home to an old English country manor, the MTV-generation twins have a hard time believing that the house might be haunted. But when Pip hears knocking deep within its 500-year-old walls, and Tim's knocks are answered back, things start to get scary. Then, when a strange youngster named Sebastian Rawne appears from one of those walls claiming to be the son of the medieval alchemist who built the place, events in the house go from scary to very strange indeed.

Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son is British writer Martin Booth's first entry into the fantasy fiction genre, and young fans of writers like Eoin Colfer and J.K. Rowling will find much to like here. It is Sebastian's fate to sleep within the walls of the house, tasked by his long-dead father to awaken when the dark side of alchemy threatens. His father's evil counterpart, the alchemist de Loudeac, is also awake, and has commenced a diabolical plan that could threaten the lives of Pip, Tim and their parents. He is constructing a homunculus, an android-like creature made of things clean and unclean and answerable only to its creator. The twins and Sebastian are determined to stop this from happening, but they must ratchet up their courage, for de Loudeac has immense powers, can change shape at will, and even has Beelzebub at his command.

Young readers will find a bit of chemistry in Doctor Illuminatus, along with botany, a little physics and some history as well. Understanding alchemy involves all of these subjects, so in following the trio's adventures, they'll get a bit of practical to go along with the fantastical. The breakneck pace of Booth's plot should do even more to hold the attention of middle-school readers, who will enjoy this new fantasy/horror novel as long as they aren't afraid of things that go bump in the night.

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Doctor Illuminatus

Doctor Illuminatus

By Martin Booth
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316155755

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