Juushika's Reviews > The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
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's review
Sep 20, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: status-borrowed
Read in September, 2007

Not long before the start of World War II, a boy named David loses his mother. David has always been an avid reader, but now his books begin to speak; his father remarries, his step-brother is born, and the war begins. Suddenly, David is pulled into a new world—the world that lives in his fairy tales, only darker and more dangerous. With his way back to our world blocked by the Crooked Man, David must journey through this new world to find a way back home—and he must become a man. Although this book begins slowly and unsteadily, it soon builds up into a twisted story that is hard to put down. Thrilling, frightening, and imaginative, this is a fairy tale for adults and a unique coming of age story. Despite its faults, I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

The Book of Lost Things begins slowly. The language is clunky, thick with adverbs and one-sentence leading paragraphs. The characters are predictable, especially that of the immature child David who, however realistic or compassionate, is neither admirable or interesting. However, as the book sweeps into the land of fantasy, the plot becomes richer and more exciting and the David's character becomes immediately more complex. From this point on, the book is both good and engrossing. Be prepared to stick through the slow beginning—it is worth it.

The other faults of the book are some failed attempt at satire and, perhaps most disappointing, an antagonist that is evil simply for the sake of being evil. However twisted (and often, detailed) the plans, malice, and sins of the Crooked Man, the lack of justification or complication to his evil nature makes him less interesting. It contrasts with the exceedingly complex nature of the rest of the fantasy world. The more you know about him, the less frightening he becomes. Thankfully, the book's climax is still skillful and scary, but the major antagonist is neither.

The fairy tale world of The Book of Lost Things is corrupted, twisted, and almost gratuitously violent, making this an fairy tale that is very much intended for adults despite the young protagonist. These themes also create the book's intense, dark atmosphere, and so make it a compelling, thrilling read. Connolly sustains tension throughout the book, and there are authentically frightening parts. In many ways the stories setting, themes, and atmosphere resemble that of the film Pan's Labyrinth: the fantasy world becomes a realm for David to tackle his own issues of jealousy, loneliness, and fear in the face of his changing family and changing world. The fantasy world, however, holds real consequences and often violence and death, and by the end of the book the reader is not sure how much of the world is real—and how much is David's own creation. This makes for a book that remains actively engrossing, and build a truly unique coming of age story. I may not agree with all of the conclusions on the themes, I don't much care for the antagonist, but this book is still wonderfully written. It is just twisted enough to give me shivers, the plot is steadily paced and the action makes it hard to put the book down, and David's own character growth brings the book to a complex and meaningful climax. This book is faulted, but nonetheless I greatly enjoyed it and I highly recommend it to all mature readers.
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