‘A perfect combination for a children's book with strong and believable characters and an exciting and unpredictable plot … It kept me turning those pages, unable to guess what was going to happen next … a wonderful mix of magic and reality that reminds me of the early books in the Harry Potter series.’
As soon as I read the first page of The Mirror of Pharos, I knew I wanted to devour the whole thing in one go. What a truly magical tale this is!
Our time-travelling debut novel is a contemporary story with lots of adventure and a big heart. It opens with Jack Tideswell and his eccentric Nan who’s been taking care of him ever since his parents died in a tragic diving accident at the site of the ancient Pharos Lighthouse… And so you know right from the beginning something startling is about to happen.
With the arrival of a parcel containing a strange silver disc, Jack is flung briefly into another time dimension. He finds himself aboard an ocean liner facing a Titanic-like disaster, a fate which seems unstoppable unless Jack can somehow learn to navigate time itself. First though, he must rescue the one passenger who can help unravel the secrets of the disc and piece together the legend of the Pharos Lighthouse.
I was absolutely swept away by Jack's character and quest. He is utterly right for the part of a sensitive 12-year-old boy who faces challenges that lead to startling consequences. Jack is no one's puppet and learns to trust his instincts when it comes to working out who his friends are – most especially the mysterious wolf, Alpha. He's a perceptive lad with fears and secrets and a determination that keeps him going through life-changing events.
Author Jenny Landor masterfully melds the relationship between the hero and the magical wolf in a charming story about the power of friendship and the everyday magic that is all around us. I was rooting all the way for eccentric Nan who is both a mother-figure and magician, and for Odin, her spirited and impulsive cat. In fact, the entire cast, each with their story to tell, are well-developed and convincing.
There are many layers to this debut novel that touch on grief, loss, spirituality, imagination, and animal magic, all well-handled and giving insight into the characters' minds. It left me craving to know what happened to Jack and the supporting cast in the future. I rarely read books a second time around, but The Mirror of Pharos reminds me of the stories I loved as a child; The Secret Garden, Tom’s Midnight Garden and Five Children and It. I will gleefully return for a double helping.
I'm absolutely sure middle grade and early teen readers will love it just as much as me. J S Landor is a children's writer to watch out for, and I feel lucky to have got my hands on an advance review copy before the official publication date. Let's hope there is a sequel.
by Cassie W.
The Mirror of Pharos
By J S Landor
‘ In the hour before dawn, two amber eyes patrolled the sky over the hushed town…….and a thick seam of fog stole down the hills, wrapping the town in a ghostly shawl.’
Before the end of the first chapter, J S Landor had transported me into a world of intrigue that had me on the edge of my seat, wondering about those brooding amber eyes. And then I met the main characters… I wasn’t prepared for the raw honesty by which she delivered Jack and his quirky Nan who raises him and has so much more to give. She shows considerable insight into the thinking of a twelve-year-old boy who lives in today’s world, showing the power of friendships (with all the emotional challenges of growing up), and weaving technology cleverly into a magical adventure that leads him to discover his own astonishing ‘Magus’ abilities.
With such an engaging, cinematic style, young readers (and some older ones!) will relish Jack’s rollercoaster journey and experience his wide range of emotions as he unravels the mystery of the Mirror and learns how to master time. In addition, her other characters, both human and ‘animus’, made me laugh, cry and gasp aloud.
As a teacher, I feel this is well suited for confident readers in upper primary and Key Stage 3. It's is a nail biter that will keep them turning the pages.
by Mrs A Wright
I'm obsessed with this story and want to know what happens next! I love books that start in the real world then add magic and the supernatural into the mix. A bit like Nan's amazing cookies - one bite is not enough!
Nan was one of my favourite characters, along with Jack's best friend, Charlie. She's tough and kind and not just a sidekick. Out of the animal characters Alpha is obviously a massive presence and Jack's connection with him is spine tingling. But I couldn't help having a soft spot for Nan's grumpy misunderstood cat, Odin.
There's some deep stuff as well. To be a Magus and unravel time, you have to be a mindful sort of person and Jack is. I think this is suitable for grown up kids too!
by A Ribeiro
Jack Tideswell lives in a town that begins to thrum with magic just as the charismatic Jago Flynn blows into town. Jack, the reluctant hero, is soon catapulted into time-slip adventures. Magic and reality blur and shift as he follows his dangerous quest.
Jack may not be a have-a-go hero, but he's determined to make sense of the weird computer disc dropped into his lap by a seagull. Jago rather captured my heart, a shadowy figure who reminded me of medieval travelling conjurers. Other characters include Jack's nan, who practises her own kind of domestic sorcery and the almost ghostly young Lily, whose life is in Jack's hands.
From the opening page, this book hooked me with its masterly storytelling voice. The language is gorgeous. J S Landor's plot covers a lot of ground, sometimes at real pace – a little like Alpha, crossing the strangely surreal landscape of Morton Muxloe.
The striking thing about this book is that has a real resonance with stories both ancient and modern. Its good-against-evil finale reminded me of Harry Potter, while the narrative voice was reminiscent of books by Alan Garner.
It's a book that tackles some interesting concepts and there are big ideas to unpick. There were plenty of twists and turns in the plot. Original and sparky, it's a story that will stay with me.
by Victoria Moore
I really enjoyed this book, I was intrigued as soon as I read the blurb for the book and saw the cover, I wasn't 100% sure what to expect but I am thrilled with what I found!
This is a fantastic story that you don't want to put down, you need to know what is happening next and how the story will end! I read it as an adult and devoured it so it certainly appeals to a wide range of ages. The characters in it are likable and the author has an excellent writing style that flows so well. This is an excellent debut novel.
Five stars from me - this is such a good book - I really enjoyed it and very highly recommend it - it is a genuine delight to have found this book!!
by Donna Maguire (via NetGalley)
Jack is in turmoil being bullied in school every day was no easy feat, having nightmares borderline to reality was even worse, they were taking a toll on him and he needed answers. Magic was the only answer to what was happening and how the disc he receive worked, but was it good or bad he was confused and wondered at his new friend Jago, was he good or bad, and Alpha what was he. He was naive enough to believe he can find the answers on his own by running away from home, he needed to know that wasn’t the answer for any child to undertake, no matter what. His journey has only begun and right away comprehension dawned upon him about what was happening, the past, future and present were all intermingling and it was scaring the crap out of him shifting from one dimension to the other, even though he was enjoying the adventure. Now he has his Nan worrying about him and racing to his rescue not knowing what dangers lay ahead. I will not say more, kids you have got to read this book for yourselves and enjoy the adventure along with Jack, Nan, Charlie and all the others, a bunch of awesome characters following an intriguing and truly captivating storyline, engaging with subtle intensity and very entertaining.
by Cherry-Ann London
A really good book than can be enjoyed by both children and adult. It is well written, with a very entertaining plot full of twists and adventures, lovely and interesting characters. It's a page turner and keep you hooked since the beginning.
by Anna Maria Giacomasso (via NetGalley)
Now I have to say that I am very partial to middle grade books. I think it is probably because I can remember having so much pleasure myself from reading when I was that age. Well I just loved this one. There is tragedy, magic and the element of enough fear to give a youngster that adrenaline rush that makes them read a little faster, as if it can just keep them out of the clutches of the bad guys.
Jack is the main character in this story and a very reluctant hero if ever I met one! I can’t blame him really, his parents going out on adventures, trying to solve mysteries of the past, had got them both killed. So not really encouragement for Jack to want anything to do with it. All he wants to do is get home from school, away from the bullies and hide away at his Gran’s, where he lives. He likes Charlie to come round for tea, she is his only friend. Then one day he gets a very unusual ‘airmail’ delivery.
This is a super adventure story with a mystery from the past to solve for Jack. I really liked Jack as he went from a mousey young lad who was scared of everything to a lad with such strong determination that wouldn’t let he give up on his mission, even if he didn’t quite know where it was heading. Charlie is lovely and always saw Jack as her hero really. His Gran is nutty, in a cosy Granny way and the bad guys, well you will have to work them out yourselves.
There are some really fascinating characters in this story that will stay will readers when they are much older. A super read!
by Susan Hampson
Jenny has a literature degree from King's College London and an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. She began her career as a journalist and went on to run her own successful farm business before working as an editor at Cambridge University Press. She lives in North Essex, plays in a rock band and is a former Co-founder of Electrik Inc.