Review: The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

Title: The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles #1)
Author: Ian Johnstone
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books (6th June 2013)
Source: HarperCollins Children’s Books twitter account
Format: ARC

A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…

Half of your soul is missing. The lost part is in the mirror. And unless Sylas Tate can unite the two worlds, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for magic, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place. Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall… [blurb taken from]

Rating: **** (4 stars)

The Bell Between Worlds is the first book in Ian Johnstone’s debut series The Mirror Chronicles. It tells the story of Sylas Tate who lives in a world similar to our own, with his uncle Tobias Tate in a place called Gabblety Row. Sylas seems like an ordinary boy who spends most of his time with his head in the clouds. Through a series of strange events Sylas finds himself in another world, one very different from his own but strangely similar where magic exists.

Ian Johnstone is a brilliant storyteller, and I can see why comparisons are made in the blurb between him and C. S. Lewis and Philip Pullman. Some of the language and imagery Johnstone writes is really beautiful and evocative. The world and ideas in The Bell Between Worlds are really interesting, and quite complex. I really enjoyed Sylas as a main character and thought he seemed really believable, however I had a bit of trouble believing that he was just twelve years old (at least, I think he is twelve – I’m honestly not too sure). I also thought he was quite a compelling character.

The Other is a really interesting place; instead of being driven forward by science and technology, its driving force is magic and that has shaped the world differently. The way Sylas arrives in the Other is really unique, and quite inventive. Johnstone does a brilliant job with the world building – he gives just enough information so you can build a picture of the world, but not so much you drown in it. He also seems to have done a good job thinking about the history of this world, and the glimpses we get of it through the story seem quite interesting and I hope we learn more about the Other in future books.

The basic plot of the books is… well, quite complex and there is definitely more going on beneath the surface than you would expect. The book has a few twists, and I have to admit that I was left guessing all the way through. I really liked the way Johnstone used the idea of Glimmers in the book – in fact, I thought the whole idea of a Glimmer as rather neat. I also liked the way that friendship is an important thread through the story.

The Bell Between Worlds is a fantastic introduction to Ian Johnstone’s The Mirror Chronicles. Johnstone does a brilliant job introducing us to the major players, ideas, and the world itself in this the first book. I look forward to reading future books in The Mirror Chronicles.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

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