Page 45 Review by Stephen
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I wolfed this down hungrily from start to finish, even if the bit in the middle made me burp. What impressed me from the very beginning of this all-ages fantasy is that harsh reality is not shied away from either, crashing in as it does right from the prologue out on a snow-swept mountain pass as Emily, her mother and father drive through the night to collect Emily's brother, Navin. They're late. They narrowly miss a small truck. But then there's one obstacle too many and...
It's played out too, Kabuishi protracting the family agony as they scream and struggle to help each other free, before the car makes one final journey, plummeting over the edge of the cliff.
Two years later, and the single mum can't afford the upkeep of their home, so she takes Emily and Navin to their great grandfather Silas's house, long since abandoned, Silas himself having gone missing some time ago. It's going to take a lot of love. In spite of her misgivings at being brought to the middle of nowhere, however splendid in its autumnal colours, Emily joins in the family cleaning frenzy until being distracted by a library full of the strangest objects she's seen, and you know how it is when you're a kid: you just can't help touching... Later that night things go bump with a fright, and Emily and Navin's mother is swallowed whole by some voracious cephalopod of sorts, and swept away from them into a subterranean tunnel that threatens to fall apart behind them. They run.
They hardly stop running throughout this first volume, either, encountering all manner of creatures from squishy pink slugs to a cat-eyed ectoplasmic monster, in a series of bids to avoid sudden death and recover their mother with the help of some unexpected allies.
Visually it's very well handled, as you'd expect from one of the creators behind the fantasy anthology series FLIGHT, although there are plenty of further surprises in store. Its strongest element is the family bonds, established early, then played on mercilessly by the children's separation from their mother (I'd anticipate a few nightmares there, but hey, the kids'd have them anyway!). The slight burp for me came when they meet their allies, because it's when you see it at its most derivative, but that's somewhat inevitable after such a long history of mystical amulets, giant mushrooms and evil elves. I reckon, however, that is one of the few all-ages books since BONE or WOLVES IN THE WALL which may prove genuinely attractive to all ages rather than "cute for the kids yet way too thin for adults".