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  • Writer's pictureJon Bolitho-Jones

Review! Review! Review! Aka Review 1

I’ve been doing quite a lot of rummaging around and snooping to see what fellow Indie authors like to post and chat about. One thing that kept popping up were reviews, unsurprisingly, of books, and my wifey has been suggesting the same thing. So here we go: my first review! I plan to try and make it a semi-regular thing, and I won’t just focus on books. No that is my solemn promise, I will try and find food, boardgames, locations, months of the year, films, T.V shows, shops, cafes, restaurants, animals, toys etc. Generally anything that I fancy reviewing in a super serious and indepth way. And how will I start these series of reviews I hear you ask so earnestly at the other end of the internet? Why a book of course! Let’s begin…

My target/subject/victim of choice this time is The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. Have a look at it below.

Grandma always used to say never judge a book by its cover, but we all know that when she said that she was not really talking about books and was also half blind. Now I must admit I have never spent money to own this book. It was actually my Dad who got this copy, along with another copy that is now lost, and a copy in German too. He was drawn in by the cover and the illustrations on it as well as this rather intriguing foreword:

“This is where my story begins. It tells how I came into possession of The Bloody Book and acquired the Orm. It’s not a story for people with thin skins and weak nerves. Whom I would advise to replace this on the pile at once and slink off to the children’s section. Shoo! Begone, you cry-babies and quaffers of camomile tea, you wimps and softies!”

With that he was smitten, bought it, took it home, enjoyed it, got some of Moers’ other books, and then purchased it again but in German (it’s one of the things he does). He also recommended it to me. But what did I think when I read it? It’s my review after all.

Let’s begin with the presentation. Namely that it is rather wonderful and incredibly quirky and charming. Moers is also an illustrator, as you can probably tell by looking at the front cover, and there are more illustrations throughout the book. I found myself (after having read the foreword and inspected the front cover) flicking through it to check them out, enthralled by the crazy fantasy world I was about to immerse myself in. Not only that but there are other details that add to the presentation. Take a look at the page below.

You’ll notice here that Walter Moers isn’t actually the author. Rather the author is styled as the main character of the book, who is a dinosaur like creature. Here’s his author picture that you can find right at the beginning.

What a delightful ruff! In essence, before you’ve even dipped one little toe into the main story you’ve already been submerged into the world he has created. By getting through these normally rather boring pages you are suspending your disbelief and accepting the existence of this book as a product of a sentient dinosaur from the world Zamonia. Interesting isn’t it? A very effective way of gripping the reader and one that worked on me.

The story itself is wonderfully written. It’s fascinating and packed full of adventure. To put it briefly and without any spoilers, the dinosaur hero, having been gifted the greatest manuscript in existence, ventures to Bookholm, a place obsessed with books. Here he hopes to find out more about the manuscript and maybe get himself started on his writing career. Things though don’t go too well for him but with that I’ll stop there and let you read it yourself.

As you can tell I loved it. It’s incredibly imaginative and different. The illustrations help bring it alive, though at the same time do not overshadow the work of the text. I found myself reading diligently away, ignoring the illustrations as I made my way through, telling myself I’d go back to them later for a proper look! The story itself is enchanting as you feel yourself transported to Bookholm with all its people, smells, and sounds buzzing around you. It’s also not what you’d call a traditional fantasy book. There are no humans, elves, or dwarves, not in the way that you’d expect anyway. Instead he makes his own creatures and individuals. Along with our main character, a dinosaur creature, there are warthog people, millipede people, book bounty hunters, small cyclops literary enthusiasts, and creatures who have heads shaped like mushrooms and play weird musical instruments along with many other quirky, monstrous, and entertaining creations. It’s certainly inventive, and if that’s the sort of thing you like they I would highly recommend you read it.

It’s also rather funny too. Not in the sense of a day time sitcom with all its canned laughter. No this is an odd and silly but also clever humour, the sort you’d expect out of something like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Moers understands the genre he’s writing in, the world he’s created, and just wants to have fun with you. Not only that but it’s not really Mr Moers who is talking to you as the narrator, its our dinosaur lead. He manages to successfully bring this character to life, so much so that you start to believe that he has actually written it and that he exists in some form. It’s like you’ve taken on your own character within the world of Zamonia. Having taken this book off the shelf in Bookholm you have started to read and immersed yourself within the work of a well known writer, that perhaps your friends have mentioned before over a slice of bee bread (which is eaten at one point in the book). It’s a very different sort of book, so it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re someone who just wants an easy read whilst lounging around on holiday I wouldn’t say it was for you. If you love your thrillers, or a couple of classic fantasy stories with dragons, naughty knights, and serious stuff, it probably won’t be for you either. However if you’re looking for something fun, quirky, and a bit different then I’m pretty confident you’re going to love it.

So as I reach the end of my first review that’s a big recommendation from me. I would also suggest his first book too, 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear. It is his better known story, and is even odder then City of Dreaming Books. There are plenty more illustrations in it, along with some phenomenal characters, and a great adventure story to go on. I do prefer Dreaming Books though, Bluebear sometimes lacks focus, and at points seems more like a series of random occurrences then a story with a clear journey and plot. And spoiler alert, it doesn’t really feel like it properly concludes either. His other Zamonian books I've not found to be as captivating but they are still definitely worth a look. But if you think you’re anything like me and like interesting fantasy stories I recommend you head out and buy it. Or failing that I think maybe you should try buying mine. What a subtle plug! There is a link as always below.

With that it’s bye for now. I’ll be back soon.


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