By Edward Willett
Published by Coteau Books
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-654-9
Door into Faerie is the fifth and final title in Regina writer Edward Willett’s The Shards of Excalibur series, and I read it without reading its predecessors, and also, admittedly, with a bit of a bias against the fantasy genre. “Magic shmagic.” I’ve often said what I really value in literature is contemporary realism. Stories I can connect with via details from the here and now, geography and language I can relate to because I recognize it, I speak it; the old “holding a mirror to the world” thing. Well surprise, surprise: I loved this young adult fantasy.
Willett wields his well-honed writing skills from page one, and my interest was maintained until the final word.
In the opening we learn teens Wally Knight (heir to King Arthur) and his girlfriend Ariane (“the fricking Lady of the Lake”), have been on a global quest to “reunite the scattered shards of the great sword Excalibur” and they’re currently at a bed and breakfast in the Cypress Hills. Cypress Hills! This ingenious juxtaposition of old and contemporary (ie: “fricking”), of information delivered in earlier books melded with new goings on, and the inclusion of relatable issues like family dysfunction — Knight’s sister is teamed with the Jaguar-driving sorcerer Merlin, aka “Rex Major, billionaire computer magnate,” and she is “living it up” in a Toronto condo, and Wally has no idea where his film-making mother is – had me immediately hooked. Wally wants to find his mother and celebrate Mother’s Day together.
I’m impressed with Willett’s ability to draw readers into the complex existing story, and can appreciate the authorial balancing act required in structuring this novel. The man knows how to write. He has, in fact, written more than 50 books, and won the 2009 Prix Aurora Award. And I’m learning that, hey, I actually do like fantasy. It’s fun to imagine “magic.” Ariane has the power to “transport them around the world via fresh water and clouds.”
The book is delightfully saturated with humour, as well as magic. Regarding Ariane’s magical prowess, “the whole dissolving-into-water-and materializing somewhere else thing still freaked [Wally] out.”
Regarding the family angle, at one point Ariane says, “Magical quests are easy; family is hard.”
While the young pair search for the famous sword’s hilt, they land in places ranging from a Weyburn swimming pool to a “dime-a-dozen” Scottish castle and the shoreline of Regina’s Wascana Lake. There’s romance too. Ariane notices that Wally’s ears “even seemed to fit his head better than they used to.” And broken romance. Wally’s mom delivers a monologue regarding her own marriage break-up, complete with the “blonde bimbo” who replaced her. There’s a long history of inter-marrying and bloodshed here.
The story is told through different perspectives. Merlin maligns the fact King Arthur had been reduced even beyond legend “to a fit subject for musical theatre.” Hilarious. I can’t imagine teens not enjoying this entertaining story, perhaps especially if they’ve read the books that have preceded it. This adult enjoyed it, too, magic and all.
— This book is available at your local bookstore or from the Saskatchewan publishers group www.skbooks.com