It’s just that the market in teenage — or at least highly youthful — magicians has been more or less cornered by those three school kids named Harry, Hermione and Ron. Otherwise, the Vega Jane series by David Baldacci, known better for his bestselling crime and intrigue thrillers, would’ve appeared quite original, despite the publishing industry’s avalanche of fantasy adventures targeting a certain age group.
As things stand, it’s kinda hard to ignore the shadow of JK Rowling when we read about three young people — two women with magical powers and one young man with no such gift — fighting a bunch of evil fellows who can fly and throw spells and get summoned by another chap who’s several degrees more evil than the rest.
Once we get past these comparisons, the book, which is the third in the series, moves at a fast clip. The opening line — “We landed, invisible, on the cobbles, and were nearly killed” — is enough to warm up the reader’s interest at the speed of the latest microwave oven. Baldacci doesn’t seem to have a great talent for building context with a light touch, so if you haven’t read the first two books, you’d struggle a little to figure out what the fuss is about. Trundling, the story tells us that these three escaped a nasty place called Quag, where trying to stay alive is everyone’s main job, and that Vega is from Wormwood, where folks know toast and bacon but say ‘wugs’ and ‘slivers’ when they mean ‘people’ and ‘minutes’.
At the centre of everything is, of course, Vega’s bravery. She’s an engaging heroine, despite a tedious flaring up of jealousy about her maybe-friend Petra, who’s crazy about Delph, the man in the group. Not much time is wasted in letting the reader know that all three would be required to sacrifice themselves. They have the choice of staying in comfort at a hidden mansion owned by Vega’s ancestors, or going out and fighting the bad, bad Maladons, who’re emptying out the mind of ordinary humans and turning them into slaves.
Baldacci’s writing has a chatty style. There’s pace and quick turns of the plot. No reader could probably hold back cheering for Vega when she takes on her adversaries. Oh, and she trains her own mini army in magic, too — just like Harry did. Now you know who’s going to win.
- Title: The Width of the World
- Author: David Baldacci
- Publisher: Pan MacMillan
- Price: Rs 399
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