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One Bright Star to Guide Them

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  266 ratings  ·  54 reviews
As children, long ago, Tommy Robertson and his three friends, Penny, Sally, and Richard, passed through a secret gate in a ruined garden and found themselves in an elfin land, where they aided a brave prince against the evil forces of the Winter King. Decades later, successful, stout, and settled in his ways, Tommy is long parted from his childhood friends, and their magic ...more
Kindle Edition, 61 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Castalia House
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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May 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, fantasy
Here's a quotation from the last chapter of this novella:

"Nothing happened and nothing continued to happen."

And that sums up this review. Most of the action takes place off-stage and is so inconsequential that it's tedious to read. The info-dumps are not at all informative, and they pummel the reader like streams of projectile vomit (except in fact possessing the stench of diarrhea... verbal diarrhea).

If there were any subtlety to the moral of the story, then the novella might have at least one
W. Ian
Apr 06, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

"Oh my gosh, does that suck!" - Frank Cross "Scrooged"

Editors note: I'm going back and giving another star to the first two books in the S.M. Stirling "Emberverse" series which I recently gave only two stars, because this story allowed me to re calibrate what a bad story is.

First the good: it's an interesting premise, the formerly young adventurers called back to re-battle the evil, but with one twist - they're now middle-aged!

What else...what...else.... Nope. Sorry, that's the end of the "good"

Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grown-ups who want to go back to Narnia
Damn John C. Wright for writing a story that has been bouncing around in my head for years, but like so many stories, I never wrote: children who went on a magical adventure to another world grow up, and then the evil returns and they must face it again as adults.

Well, the idea is not wholly original. Stephen King did it in It. Lev Grossman did it in The Magicians. But those were both R-rated deconstructions of a children's portal fantasy, while One Bright Star to Guide Them is a loving tribute.
Jeff Miller
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First off, I can't remember being so filled with a novella. I feel as if I read a 400-plus page fantasy novel. So much to unpack from it and think about and the story is really something I want to re-read.

It contained an interesting premise where a group of children had previously gone on an adventure together and survived the quest in some instance of fairyland. Now they are adults who have put such ideas behind them. A new challenge threatens their own lands. I liked the playfulness is part of
Timothy Maguire
Aug 31, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To be honest, One Bright Star to Guide Them is perhaps one of the best stories to symbolise the problem with the 'Sad/Rabid Puppy' slates from the 2015 Hugos. On paper it looks like a great idea, 'what if the heroes of the Narnia books had grown to adulthood and then been needed again', but the novella fails to deliver on that interesting premise. Indeed, this rates as flat out one of the worst pieces of fiction I've read this year. It's an astonishingly lackluster story, ruined by an astoundin ...more
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Ugh, well, someone did nominate it for a Hugo, so I read it.

To begin with the minor issues, the writing style is largely unobjectionable and unimaginative. It's biggest problem occurs because it's a story in which backstory matters a lot but gets introduced in an unsubtle manner. Ugly info dumps, that sort of thing. Also, the story is set in a culture other than the author's which happens to be mine. Lots of Americans write stories set in Britain. You can pretty much always tell they're not Brit
Lis Carey
This wants so badly to be an allegorical fable in the manner of C.S. Lewis's Narnia. And it fails so, so badly.

Years ago when they were children, Tommy and his three friends went on an adventure to a magical land and helped defeat evil and restore the true king, to the benefit of Earth as well as the magical realm. Now, with a boring job in the City, he's just gotten a promotion that he doesn't want, and a momentary encounter reminds him of his forgotten adventure. Suddenly, the magical cat Tyba
Anna Wiggins
Apr 27, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
tl;dr: Don't ever even consider reading this absolute piece of garbage.

Content warning: discussion of sexual assault, abortion, religion

This book is poorly written and weakly plotted. It has a massive number of technical faults. It does have one clever thing it tries to do: telling a Narnia-style story entirely through the reminiscences of the characters as adults. Sadly, this just doesn't come off; there isn't enough depth and emotion in their descriptions of past stories to sell the reader.

Morgan Dhu
Jun 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
From the moment I read this passage on the third page or thereabouts, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on in this novella:

"Tommy stared down at the cat. “If you're really Tybalt, the Prince of Cats, the son of Carbonel, please say something,” he whispered. “Say anything. Please!” The cat began to wash his paws fastidiously. Tommy said, “It must be you! I know it's you! I remember you from when I was a schoolboy. There was the well behind the ruined wing of Professor Penkirk's mansion.
Lisa Nicholas
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
A bit of a disappointment

I was looking forward to this, based on the book description and reader reviews, but it disappointed in the reading.

I liked (and still like) the idea of catching up with middle-aged characters who, like the Pevensies of Lewis's Narnia series, as children visited a mystical land, fought the forces of evil, and then returned to mundane existence. So why didn't I enjoy One Bright Start to Guide Them?

It seemed to me, as I read, that far too much time was spent on the main c
Jan 15, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A sort of continuation of the Narnia books by C.S Lewis. A group of children has had adventures in a magical and as a child and they have brought back a few magical items, like a sword, a book and a shard of magical mirror. One member of the group encounters the magic cat, who used to help them in the fantasy land. Then he tries to find the other children, but one of them has turned to a devil worshipper, one has died and one has grown old prematurely and is pretty disillusioned and passive. And ...more
Julie Davis
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how Wright did this. This novella picks up the idea of what happens when the children who were once engaged on a grand adventure (a la The Lion and the Wardrobe) reach middle age. The adventure has been sublimated to the necessities of adult life. When the call goes out for their heroic talents how will they respond? What will be the consequences for each of them? And for the rest of the world?

This is a very deep story with much to ponder and it promises rich enjoyment upon rereadin
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is something I would expect a high school student to write as fan fiction. The action is handled in info dumps and the "plot" is disjointed. Wright made a lame attempt to write a story set in England but did an abysmal job. The descriptive language and dialogue is 99% American English with the rare British English word used. ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
Wright has written some decent stories. This isn't one of them. At times it reads like a synopsis of a longer work. ...more
John C. Wright is an incredibly inventive author (I recently read and loved The Golden Age but here, some of the ideas are imports from Narnia and Middle Earth. A more serious flaw is the mad rush to get through this novela: it read more like a detailed treatment for a novel than a novela. This error of pacing kept me from really enjoying this book.
Rex Corvinus
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John C. Wright plays very well in other authors' sandboxes. In One Bright Star to Guide Them, Wright crafts a doppelganger of Lewis' Narniad adventures, weaves in a few Lovecraftian patterns, and adds a few golden threads of Tolkienesque theology.

As with his take on the Night Land of Wm. Hodgson's dying Earth or his own City Beyond Time, Wright excels in the art of atmospheric shadows. Whether the explicit and incomprehensible darkness of the Night Land's monsters, the Nietzschean nihilism of t
Ben Nash
A middle-aged man is called back to the heroism of his youth.

I recently read the The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman. I kept wanting to see how things would turn out, but the story relied on The Chronicles of Narnia without standing enough on its own.

One Bright Star to Guide Them left me feeling mostly the same. Grossman and Wright are coming from different places when they look back to Narnia, but they both owe it much. Wright might be the stronger writer, but he fails a little more for me be
Joanne G.
Tommy, Penny, Sally, and Richard were all recruited as children to fight evil from a fantastic dimension. As they grew up and lost their innocence and faith, they grew apart and led separate lives. Tommy has been contacted to take up the fight again, but he hesitates and has difficulty believing even though he is willing. His friends have all taken different paths in life and have relegated their childhood to the past.

There is more philosophy than fairy story in this novella; there is much to t
May 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hugos-2015
Read for the 2015 Hugos

I think I see what Wright was trying to do here. Too many stories end with the kids that are the heroes coming home and then nothing happens. This is about what happens when they grow up. It's too bad that Wright doesn't do this very well. Everything about this story feels like a 15 year old read The Chronicles of Narnia and tried to write a sequel, or continuation, or spirtual successor or something. The back story sounds like a weird, overblown, under-thought D&D campai
Jeromy Peacock
I like John C. Wright's work and writing style. I enjoyed his Golden Age trilogy as well as Awake in the Night Land. However, this novella fell a bit flat for me.

The writing, as usual, was superb but the story seemed too rushed and extremely similar to a C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia book. This book is missing the originality that I have come to expect from a work of John C. Wright.

With that being said, I would still give it a read and I look forward to more of this author's work.

5 stars = Ye
Aug 01, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as part of the 2015 Hugo Awards packet (it was nominated for Best Novella).

I actually gave it 0.5 of 5 (no half-stars here!) A Narnia homage, this one is overfilled with references to past events in unknown places in a fantasy world and nods to various CS Lewis writings. Bold choice to make all the best action offscreen... and then blithely describe it in dialogue. It doesn't help that one of the characters inconsistently speaks in a very archaic fashion, and the ending is just bizar
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I loved the premise. The biggest problem was the story didn't flow. It was disjointed. One chapter you were somewhere, the next several months and lots of stuff has elapsed. The back-fill of the story is revealed throughout the chapter which makes it totally confusing and difficult to follow. I'm ashamed I nominated this for a Hugo, now that I think about it. Boo on me. ...more
Elizabeth S
Such an interesting premise. Could have been good as a short story that parodies Narnia-type books. Instead this is overly detailed, long & bloated, with ambiguous purpose.
Jun 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Badly written and not engaging at all.
Edoardo Albert
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Suppose you had, as a child, gone through the wardrobe, or taken the door into the hollow hill, or dropped down the rabbit hole. But then you grew up. What would life be like as an adult? And how would you respond if the wardrobe door opened and a creature, an old friend, from your childhood life came to visit and said you were needed once more?

Alan Garner tried to answer this question in Boneland, where a grown-up Colin is still trying to come to terms with the loss of his sister. Boneland is -
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great children's book, easy to understand Christian symbolism. There is a reference to the Resurrection, to God's Kingdom, light, truth, the distinction between substance and shadow, truth and falsehood, etc, and putting your hand on the plow and not looking back. For an adult it was not a waste of time to read because it was densely packed with easy to swallow moral lessons and only took about half an hour to read. Again, READ THIS TO YOUR KIDS. Make sure they understand. ...more
Векослав Стефановски
I stumbled on to this one because of the Rabid Puppies and their Hugo 2015 slate. It's short, and reminded me of the first book of The Magicians. The story is readable and has a nice flow, and feelings of details left unsaid.

The final battle could have been better, but other than that, it's a nice novella.
Cathy Weber
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings

This short novel has incredible moments, built as it is on the backs of great literature, and the writing is good, in fact, very good. with that said, the reader is left wanting, the promise of the narrative goes unfilled. And it is unfortunate the author himself has been tainted by association with the kennels of intolerance.
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy
It's interesting to see other reviews of this book - seems people either love it or hate. I thought the book was amazing. The concept is "what happens after the story has ended" - the hero/heroes (children in this instance) save the day by vanquishing the villain and freeing the fantasy land... now what? It may not be an original concept, but it is masterfully executed here. For the sake of convenience in this review, I'll just call this past story that doesn't actually exist "narnia".

An interes
Robby Charters
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ever since C.S.Lewis introduced us all to Narnia, many an author has launched their young characters forth into those weird and wonderful climes where they invariably become entangled in a struggle on behalf of tiny people, talking animals, and/or other mythical creatures against some powerful evil force. John C. Wright has taken it to the next logical step -- well, logical in hindsight, otherwise brilliantly innovative; he asks, what happens after those children grow up? Does the magic land sim ...more
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John C. Wright (John Charles Justin Wright, born 1961) is an American author of science fiction and fantasy novels. A Nebula award finalist (for the fantasy novel Orphans of Chaos), he was called "this fledgling century's most important new SF talent" by Publishers Weekly (after publication of his debut novel, The Golden Age). ...more

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