Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover



Author: Jerry Ibbotson
Media Mill
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 978 0 9560635 0 2
Available 31 October 2008

Alex Preston’s dissatisfaction with his life leads him to spend a lot of his time daydreaming, something which his wife Sarah used to find endearing, but with two children to care for it now just feels like he would rather be somewhere else. Following an odd and disturbing episode on the train home Alex is forced to take his car to work, which almost gets him out of one of those tedious office binge drinking leaving parties. His choice to stay leads him to be introduced to a doorway, a doorway to another land, where magic, not science rules, where Alex may have to make a choice which could determine the fate of both realities...

Chosen is the debut novel by Jerry Ibbotson and is being marketed as a fusion of Nick Hornby and C.S. Lewis, presumably because the story is partially played out in a typical London domestic situation, but mostly because Alex accesses Theland through a secret tunnel. On that basis it could have been compared to Lewis Carroll, though neither comparison would have stood up to scrutiny. It would be truer to say that the book has more of a kinship with Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever - with both lead characters starting their journey, to their own salvation and others, as cynical and are more than a little dissatisfied with their lives.

Taken as two parts, Theland and our reality, many aspects of the Theland sequences come off as the weaker part of the book. Ibbotson spends little time setting up his characters before having Alex's work friend, Marshal, introduce Alex to Theland. Although this goes a long way to creating mystery, it also left me unconvinced about Alex’s motivation to just up and leave his family for a protracted stay in his new found fantasy land.

Although I thought the Theland part of the book was weaker, partially because the fantastic aspect was a little lacking - Ibbotson falling back on the too well worn stock characters and  descriptions of any fantasy land having to be some form of medieval society, with its associated castles and small villages - he did succeed in creating some very moving and memorable characters. These include the Guardian, Samuel and the fallen priest, Avery Tavistock - the latter of which almost steals the whole book with sad poignancy. The better half of the book is set in contemporary London; the characters are better fleshed out, as is the detail of the environment.

Ibbotson’s writing is a little uneven. Accomplished though it may, be the book swings from moments of pure genius, Avery and the Guardian, to good social realism, unfortunately interspersed with some ideas well past their prime. The book would have been better split into two. The reason behind the whole story, and no I’ll not say what that is as it will ruin your enjoyment, could have happened without the inclusion of Theland - and the Theland part of the book could have been spellbinding if he had the courage to move away from stock characters.

That said, it was an enjoyable first novel - must have been, as I read it in one sitting - with enough grip to keep you turning the page. An impressive first novel, lets hope that in the next one he throws out all the fantasy conventions and lets his imagination really run riot.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£6.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.