29 May 2010

Battle of the Sun

by Jeanette Winterson

Allen and Unwin. Young Adult. Paperback rrp $16.99

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

In this nothing less than spectacular novel, Winterson has reinstated herself as one of the great writers of our time. Turning to children’s writing with Tanglewreck, her superlative prose style coaxes her outstanding characters to life in every line.

It is 1601 and on the day that Jack turns twelve, his whole world changes. He is kidnapped on his way home and taken from his mother to become the instrument of the Magus whose intention it is to use Jack as the sacrifice of ‘blood most dear’ to enable his magic and achieve the work of the mighty Opus by turning all of London into gold.

Jack is transported to the Dark House where things are not what they seem. A series of challenges lay before the boy. With the help of a magic dragon, the alliance of the alchemist John Dee and Silver - characters born in Tanglewreck, he must dig deep to find a way to return his mother back to life from the stone woman the Magus has made her, and put an end to the madness.

This novel picks up threads from Tanglewreck although it is not a sequel, and weaves a magical tale of power and love. Brilliant in its imagery and powerful in its intent, it creates spectacular worlds from the natural surroundings. Water has always been a favourite focus of Winterson in her novels, as have the elements and the solar system. She makes good use of all these symbols to reproduce the realities of life, mostly the human weaknesses, strengths and frailties contained in us all.

Battle of the Sun is used as a metaphor for the fight that must be waged internally by each person in the book. This battle will enable them to redeem their most outstanding potential from the threatening external forces which seek to destroy their beings. Truth and honour must battle power and evil for love to overcome all obstacles. The book is open-ended so we should expect a third book with these characters.

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