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LEISURE: Review of The Pageant, by Angela Blaen
6:00pm Sunday 6th April 2014 in News
THE Pageant takes place in a Devon where, as one of the characters tells us, "two worlds meet" - the world of fairy and human. In a magical orchard, across the Shobrooke from the human town of Clayton we learn that the fairy kingdom of Oberon, Titania and Merlin is somehow threatened. Jay Goodfellow, half human, half fairy, and a successor to Puck of old, is sent to Oaken Lane, in Clayton, to determine what is happening.
Meanwhile in the human world Linnet Dunn, whose relationship with boyfriend Damian has reached a crisis, is obliged leave him in London to return to Oaken Lane, where her parents have mysteriously gone missing. With only her to care for her younger brother and sister Rowan and Rose, Linnet finds herself confronted by unfamiliar feelings of responsibility.
Jay Goodfellow and his niece, who has swapped her Elizabethan Fairy College for the Clayton Primary School, settle in Oaken Lane and begin to gently probe the lives of its inhabitants. As we learn of Jay's discoveries there, and those of his companions, we sense the dislocation that is not only present in the fairy but in the human world too, for as well as Linnet's parents, an ancient volume by Samuel Dunn has disappeared, and the family cockerel is missing.
The Dunns are descended from 18th century mathematician, astronomer and cartographer Samuel Dunn, whose work is somehow tied up with the concerns of Merlin and the fairy kingdom, and so too, apparently, is the work of Linnet's father, a chip off the old block, who is a quantum physicist, and mathematician.
All the Clayton Dunns including Linnet's solicitor uncle, his mysterious partners and her wild cousins are drawn into what emerges as a battle of good against evil.
A battle not in spectacular style, but in the small scale counter moves of humans and fairies, goblins, dwarves, even animals, against the deceitful machinations of sinister banker and businessman Alexander Sneerdon and his XYX Corporation, aided by Linnet's ex boyfriend Damian, and two thoroughly unpleasant librarians who live next door to the Dunns in Oaken Lane The charming Jay Goodfellow recruits other allies when the battle begins in earnest, and dislocation becomes menace as Sneerdon's men undertake illegal fracking and prospecting that threatens the physical stability of the fairy kingdom, and his Libor frauds threaten the financial stability of the human world. With the arrival of May Day celebrations the fight back begins: the evil librarians are expelled and a burglary is foiled by Linnet's cousins.
This charming fantasy keeps the adventure count high as it moves towards its resolution, and clearing up mysteries that have straddled the boundary between the fairy kingdom and Clayton, The heroes eventually outmanoeuvre the malefactors, but there is one last surprise saved until the final pages.
Angela Blaen's narrative flows effortlessly between the fairies and the humans, so that we readily enter into the novel's two worlds. And throughout, the tale is infused with wry humour that constantly engages and entertains.
Underpinning the narrative is a thread of folklore, which is just one enriching dimension. For we are also exposed to an emotional subplot that reveals the confused affections of four of our protagonists, a reminder of two pairs of lovers elsewhere in literature for whom "the course of true love never did run smooth". And the appearance of a May Day donkey to the disdain of Titania, the progress for all characters through a maze to their heart's desire at the book's climax, and the play in Clayton's square on Midsummer Day all recall that earlier adventure in the fairy kingdom. Yet despite this reminder of an earlier bard's tale, the threats to human and fairy here are only too topical.
Angela Blaen's love of the Devon countryside is evident in her thumbnail sketches of the plot's backdrops. And we all know the people of Clayton that she has drawn for us; we meet them every day in the small towns of Mid-Devon and elsewhere. Parents will instantly recognise Rowan, Rose, Eva and even Fay, the deftly written children who bring such enthusiastic wonder to the tale.
The story should enthral and delight all who seek a fantasy with menace but no horror, full of humour, romance and mystery.
Connection to Devon: Inspired by a real Mid-Devon town and countryside that should not be difficult to recognise at least for Devonians, with many clues in the place names. The delightful scenery must of course be in Devon.
The Pageant by Angela Blaen. Paperback £9.99 ISBN: 9780956611949 Published by Nymet Books. Available from Publisher's website: http://www.medievalpress.com/nymet.html (free postage)
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