The Secret Country (The Secret Country Trilogy, Book 1)
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The Secret Country (The Secret Country #1)

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  1,007 ratings  ·  72 reviews
For the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played at "The Secret"-a game full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring and court intrigue. In The Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. The...more
Paperback, 293 pages
Published May 1st 1985 by Ace
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Pawn of Prophecy by David EddingsMagician by Raymond E. FeistThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyQueen of Sorcery by David EddingsThe Elfstones Of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Best Fantasy of the 80s
97th out of 204 books — 236 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Cider House Rules by John IrvingLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Best Books of 1985
59th out of 128 books — 78 voters

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Apr 04, 2013 Choco marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
So this is the author that the amazing and talented Cassandra Clare plagiarized... and got away with. And is now making millions, and she's still working with the same world and characters. 5 series.

How many ratings does this have? 700.
How many do Clare's have? 280,000 for City of Bones. Add them all up, probably over 1 million.
The Secret Country begins with a very Narnia-esque scenario of five children, cousins, who are accustomed to spend their summers together. And every summer they play the same imaginative game about a fantasy country of magic and intrigue, where they are all princes and princesses. But this summer they are separated and miserable—until they find two magical swords that seem to transport them into their imaginary country made real.

The true genius here is how Pamela Dean intertwines the children’s...more
OMG so awesome. Two siblings and their three cousins fall through a hedge into a magical realm—one they used to pretend was real. Like a non-preachy version of Narnia, but with better characterization and a more intriguing framing device. In fact, each and every character is well-rounded and interesting—I go the feeling that any one of them could carry a story of their own.
C.E. Murphy
All right, this is technically a recent re-read, as I have read this book more times than I can count. I think the last time, though, may well have been ten or twelve years ago, when I was writing my own “children from our world are whisked away to another, which only they can save” book. Halfway through, I basically fell into a complete panic that I was not writing THE SECRET COUNTRY and that what I was doing was disasterous, so I did something I never ever do, which is went and read a book whi...more
You might wonder how I discovered this book. Well, my friends, even if you didn’t wonder, I’m going to tell you anyway. According to my somewhat possibly faulty memory, it happened something like this. I became aware of that fact that apparently on Goodreads you can review... fanfiction. As in, fanfiction—that, from what I gather, you can still find on or what have you—can be found on its own page on Goodreads. And you can then review them.

I wasn't sure how I should feel about thi...more
Julie Davis
I discovered this trilogy in the best way - at the book store long ago when the first book had just come out. So as the story unfolded I was left on tenterhooks until each book came out. Frequent rereading has done nothing to dim my enjoyment. Here's the brief summary.
For the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played at "The Secret"-a game full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring and court intrigue. In The Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape d
A group of children end up inside the imaginary world that they created as part of a secret game, and then they experience some of the adventures they used to play.

I liked the characters, and the setting was fun because it fit with how a bunch of kids that age would create a fantasy kingdom, complete with enchanted forests, a wizard's tower, and unicorns. Unfortunately, the rest of the book had some serious issues.

The kids were almost always confused about what was going on. They had a lot of kn...more
The Secret Country is like Narnia for teenagers (or for people who read YA lit). For the past several years, five children have created a fantasy world called Secret. Then, one year they find our that the world they have created is real. Trapped in Secret, our heroes must play the parts that they have created for themselves in the story. Will they manage to change the plot and prevent the murder of the king?

The Secret Country is a incredibly fun and fascinating fantasy book. In fact, the only th...more
This is quite possibly the worst book I've read recently. I read 100 pages and I was so confused. Kids pretending to be others but thinking back to a script that they made and there were people who were playing on person but not someone in this part of the story. I gave up.

As the one reviewer said, it was a like a private joke that we weren't in on. As far as it being Narnia it's far from it, the whole idea would have been great but it's not anything like a Narnia. Great writer you aren't.
I'm rereading this after many years (needed a dose of fantasy), and all I can say is that it is every bit as good as I remembered. Dean gives these kids such powerful identities, and she presents them so deftly, through word and action and the observation of the other kids, that I'm hardly aware of how I got to know them so well.

And oh, the language. Oh Pamela, how I wish you were more prolific, for I would devour anything that came from your pen (or computer).
I tried to read this book a year or so ago but couldn't get into it. Then I picked it up this year and loved it! It's really good, and totally worth it!
Each summer, five cousins have created the Secret--a fantasy world whose story and magic they've built in bits and pieces over the years. But one year, they find themselves in the Secret Country itself, a real place whose magic and politics are much more complex from within. Dean pens some beautiful lines and the Secret's unicorns are superb, but the world and magic of the Secret Country aren't particularly unique; what's compelling, instead, is the nature of its creation. The children may have...more
I read the Secret Country trilogy because I liked Tam Lin so very much.

The Secret Country trilogy was good, but not nearly as satisfying. Like Tam Lin, it takes a very long time to set up, and does so in a wandering way, but this time I didn't think that they pay-off was really worth it. I didn't feel like I really understood the characters' motivations for doing everything.

In the book, Ted, Laura, Ruth, Patrick and Ellen find the Secret Country that they have been playing with and imagining fo...more
I rather arbitrarily selected this work from Abebooks's recent list of otherworldly reads. The thing is, after three excellent books in a row, I'm struggling to engage with anything that doesn't strike me so immediately and fully. It's not Pamela Dean's fault that her rather middle-of-the-road writing fell into this trap. At least she reminded me of John Renbourn's exquisite take on John Donne. And, for what it's worth, I would kind of love to analyze The Secret Country and other YA books in whi...more
I loved this. As with The Dubious Hills, I love the way Dean includes details not often mentioned in fantasy novels - breezes, insects, too many stairs, etc.

The premise is that a group of cousins play-act a Shakespearean fantasy with magic & murder & etc. During the summer they're separated, their pretend world - "the game" - becomes real. (Maybe.)

I'm excited to read the rest of the trilogy, and also glad that this seems to be a series that will lend itself well to rereading. Not only ar...more
I got 1/2 way through and gave up. I just couldn't get into this book.
The Secret Country and The Hidden Land, the first two books in this trilogy, were originally written as one installment (as the author's note explains). I'm not sure who separated them, but they ought to be tightened up and put back together again. Dean's writing is deep and rich, but oddly elliptical. She includes numerous literary and historical asides and quotes (the children devour Shakespeare, which influences their language and play-acting). However intriguing the plot and alive the charac...more
I used to think I was quite a prolific reader as a child, but now, looking back, I realize that I spent a great deal of time rereading books. Even with the wealth of my local library at my fingertips, I would often check out the same books over and over again. I think this may have had to do with the fact that my family could not afford to buy me all the books I wanted, so I had no way of revisiting my favorites. The point of this is, I do think I missed out on a quite a few treasures in favor o...more
Elizabeth K.
Every October I reread Pamela Dean's Tam Lin because it's such a good Halloween book. But this year, I couldn't find my copy of Tam Lin, I'm sure I have it somewhere, but it hasn't resurfaced since we moved last spring. I'm sure it will eventually. Fortuitously, I was able to read The Secret Country instead. It's the first book in a trilogy about five cousins who play an on-going pretend game about a fantasy kingdom, and it becomes real and the kids are shocked and surprised and there they are....more
Having immensely enjoyed one of Dean's other works, Tam Lin, I was looking forward to reading this, and I was disappointed that I didn't find it all that interesting. I kept waiting for the story to get going, even as I could see that I was past the halfway point of the book and that this was probably about as gripping as it was ever going to get. The children already know who the people in the Secret Country are and what's "supposed" to happen because they've been acting it out as a play for ye...more
Marishka Valentine
When I first read this book a few years ago, I had to put it aside almost immediately because it seemed hard to read. I picked it up again, however, a few months later and tried again, to see if it really was me, or if it was the book. Sadly, it was the book. Confusing and poorly written at times, The Secret Country is an awesome story and great plot, but in serious need of help. As I said, when I first read it, I was so thoroughly confused and put off by the writing style that I just had to put...more
Review taken from my blog, The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

The Secret Country and I have a few years worth of history. The first time I read it, about five years ago, I just fell in love with the world and couldn't sleep after finishing the first book, so I begged (yep, I was that desperate) my mom to get my the next two books so I could know how it would end.

I really like how the book starts out with the main characters, Ted, Laura, and their cousins Patrick, Ruth and Ellen, playing what they...more
I first became aware of this book back when the whole Cassandra Clare/Claire plagiarism incident went down and it became known that she had copied parts of this book and used them in her Harry Potter fanfiction. I never read the fanfiction but I was curious to read a story that someone thought was so good that they wanted to copy it and pass it off as theirs. So I picked "The Secret Country" up and then it sat on my shelf for all these years until I finally decided I should read it or get rid of...more
For years I've been looking forward to reading this book. I think it's been on my shelf for over a decade. I was so sure I would like it, but was quite disappointed when I actually picked it up and read it. I liked some aspects. The premise was nice and the atmosphere was magical, but the execution wasn't great.

The book is about 5 kids and when they cross over into their fantasy world, they play 5 characters as well. They also meet loads of people there. None of them were very clear though (and...more
I first read this book back in middle school and am glad that its charm doesn't rub off with age. The fact that I not only recalled the main characters' names but their personalities as well should be a clue as to how fleshed out they all are. All of them are so much fun to read about! Pamela Dean has a true gift for dialogue, and other writers should take note.
The premise of this series is very typical teen fantasy: group of kids play pretend that they are royalty in a strange medieval land, only to accidentally wander into it and discover that it's all real. Yes, it is exactly like the movie Labyrinth.

This book is a bit short on David Bowie's balls, however. Instead, it makes a unique name for itself by going into excruciating length on the politics and power-struggles of the hidden land the kids arrive in. This book has a lot more of the discussion,...more
This review is for the whole trilogy (not including Dubious Hills): I like Dean's writing, I like the premise, and I like her adult characters - which pretty much gives away that I'm not that fond of her protagonists! I'm always leery of writers who state or intimate that child characters are precocious; this seems to be an excuse for letting children exhibit any old behavior, adult or childish, smart or stupid. Granted, precocious children can lay an adult veneer on a child's personality, but g...more
Erin A.
This book saved me as a kid. I was seriously depressed and miserable and this book opened up an entirely new fantasy world that I fell in love with and got me through some of the more difficult teenage years. I read it over and over and over. Loved this book as a teen!!
I stumbled on this book because I got curios after reading (in a moment when I was really bored) all the c.claire old fan-fiction plagiarism diatribe. I got curios on how could one love this book so much to use some pages as early learning experience (which worked pretty well seeing how well off she's now), and how another could read it so many times to learn pages by memory and recognize the writing pattern even after it had been modified.

I read it and I have to admit that if I had read this w...more
It reminded me a lot of the Chronicles of Narnia, except less whimsical and much more detailed. There aren't any easy resolutions in this alternate world, which is more original, I guess, but also more frustrating for the reader who has to wait while the kids just figure out what's going on and how to deal with it. I always tend to read Pamela Dean's books in short little bits, not all in one go, and I don't know why that is. It's not like they're boring, or hard to get into, but it's like the g...more
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