Maddigan’s Fantasia

By Margaret Mahy

Rating: 2 stars

Garland Maddigan is part of the travelling circus known as Maddigan’s Fantasia. Travelling through a post-apocalyptic world that is slowly remaking itself after the Destruction and Chaos, this trip they’re on a mission to find a Macguffin and bring it back to their home city of Solis. When two young boys appear in front of Garland out of nowhere, claiming sanctuary in the Fantasia, the trip suddenly becomes even more fraught with adventure and danger.

This was quite a frustrating book. There’s a good story in there but it’s let down by niggling inconsistencies, duex ex machina and inconsistent characters. Protagonist Garland’s mood swings with the chapters, as does her apparent intelligence, although this can be somewhat excused as grief for her lost father, Ferdy, the Fantasia’s ringmaster (not a spoiler, it happens right at the start of the book and the first chapter is entitled ‘Losing Ferdy’), but I felt that Garland and her mother’s grief were clumsily handled.

The villains following the runaway boys start off as menacing, but their threat is reduced as they are soundly beaten by the Fantasia in every encounter whereas the ‘Big Bad’ pulling the strings in the background, the Nennog, always feels somewhat abstract, even when he appears “on screen”.

The book could have done with one fewer set piece to provide more time for the conclusion which was rushed and confused. In particular, the actions of the Duke of Solis came completely from nowhere and there were no reasons given for him behaving as he did, leaving me feeling confused and cheated.

There were some fun set pieces, and cool bits, and Garland’s final farewell to her father was nicely handled but this is a book that failed to deliver on its possibilities.

Book details

ISBN: 9780571230167
Publisher: Faber Faber
Year of publication: 2005

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