Monday, November 2, 2015

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne

Rating: WORTHY!

This is an abridged version of the 2009 novel Lydia's Tin Lid Drum, which I have not read. This portion of it, at least, grabbed my attention and imagination. I have confess a certain level of doubt over the merits of a story which is based entirely around children eating candy, but that said, this novel is very playful and a lot of fun. You can tell that the author had a lot of fun writing it, which is a good sign, although I wonder if even this abridged version might be too long for some people. For me it has a decent plot and reasonable pace, although I confess even I wanted to get finished, but that was because I have other things I need to read, not because this wasn't entertaining. Some people might grow tired of the endless word play, but for me, it's very much my style.

Note that this is a British novel which makes no concessions to the US (and "Well played, sir," says I!), so some of the writing may be rather obscure to non-Brits who are not anglophiles.

Lydia Rhodium lives on planet that looks (from the illustrations included) like a climate-changed version of Earth, where much of what we recognize as our planet has been submerged under water, leaving smaller, more isolated continents. She lives in Tinport, in the nation of Likrishka, although she's not actually from there. The entire story plays on the names of varieties of candy and sweets (some of them very British, such as Dolly Mixture), turning them into towns and nations and islands. I enjoyed the word-play but for others it might be overdone or obscure.

The maps distributed through the text will help depict the geography better than I can describe it. The world she inhabits is, on the surface, every child's delight and every dentist's nightmare: it's a candy world, where jellies and toffee (taffy) abound, literally growing on trees, or swimming in the sea. The problem here is that the nation in which she lives has been taken over by Stannic, and evil overlord who is obsessed with creating confectionary, and subjugating everyone by threat and with his metal robots which come in human, dog, bird, and other forms. All children are separated from their parents and raised by despotic 'Maters' - house-mothers cum-slave-drivers. The kids are required to study, and perhaps the best of them might get to work in Stannic's kitchens, as Lydia's much older step sister does. The rest get to work the mines and factories.

The advantage which Lydia has is that she can work magic when she eats a certain type of toffee. Her problem is that she's been denied this particular variety because it's imported and Likrisha no longer has access to it, but unexpectedly, Lydia's cold and uncommunicative sister visits her and leaves her some of this toffee as a gift. Now Lydia has power. She's already been shown to be a rebel, smuggling a cat into her lodging. Now she's on the run, and using her magical power to fend off the robots and stay out of Stannic's clutches. This came to pass along with another unexpected diversion in the story: Lydia meets up with a team of young girls with adorably oddball names and dress sense. This is where they really embark upon a fun and inventive adventure across the continent in search of the magical candies which will bring down Stannic's evil despotism.

The story did seem very long, but overall I enjoyed it and I recommend it was a worthy read.

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