International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction Review
Master of Fallen Chairs By Henry Porter
Orchard Books; (Sep 2008)
ISBN13: 9781846166259: Paperback
Reviewed by Callum Graham
is thirteen, his mother has died two years previous, and he is estranged
from his alcoholic father. He has been sent to Skirl, the house
of his cousin and guardian colonel Drago. His life is filled with
the monotonies of school work imposed on him by his horrible school
master Quake. However his real enemy proves to be Alba Hockmuth,
another stranger to Skirl who is slowly taking control of running
the house. Kim is lonely, for he is the only child. His only friend
is Bella Brown, a maid who shares his interest in the mysteries
of Skirl, but who vanishes without trace just weeks before Christmas.
On the night Bella
disappears a stranger knocks at the Skirls front door. The visitor is
the eccentric Igthy Ma-tuu Clava (or Iggy for short). As the length
of his stay increases the strange goings on that Kim has noticed begin
to worsen. Before Kim knows it he is solving riddles in a time jumping
battle to save his life, with only himself, a few new friends and his
wits to protect him. What secrets does the Long Gallery hold, what clues
are in the painting of the fallen chairs and who is the master who painted
Iggy is a lovable, if unusual character. He has travelled across the
sea from the Ro-Torva Islands and believes himself to be a long lost
descendant of the Drago family. His genial and amusing appearance disguises
a shrewd intelligence and expert knowledge of the increasingly spooky
happenings at Skirl. It quickly becomes apparent that Kim must put his
trust in him if he wants to solve the dangerous secrets of the master
of the fallen chairs. Kims cousin, Colonel Drago is well meaning
but old, distant and somehow oblivious to the strange goings on in the
As the plot continues Kim learns alarming facts about some of the people
living under Skirls roof but also meets some new friends. These include
a highly proud and talkative stuffed penguin creature called the great
Auk and a female child ghost named Silverfish. Both prove invaluable
on his and Iggys journey through time. However, for every new friend
there is enumerable enemies that try to get in there way.
I was compelled by the quirkiness of the world that Henry Porter has
created and the phenomenon of the magic house was inventive and interesting.
It helped to show the progression of narrative but also created wonderful
imagery of this old supernatural building slowly being encased by the
more modern one.
I particularly enjoyed Porters descriptions of the weather conditions
that Kim has to battle through. Sentences such as "the ice glittered
magically in the air
like the dust in a room picked out by shafts
of sunlight" add a richness and atmosphere to the plot. The book
plays on Christmas already being a heightened time of year but adds
an enchanting element that would make this a great holiday read. It
would make a good Christmas stocking filler for teens and adults alike.
I enjoyed the book. The vivid descriptions and unusual characters sucked
me into the story and I was reluctant to put it down. The ending has
been left open so I think we can expect more from Kim, Iggy and the
great Auk. I will defiantly keep my eye open for the sequel.
Graham Nov 2008
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