David Fickling Books, €17.99;
Don’t be deceived by the title, this is an extremely clever standalone novel which pokes gentle fun at the world of fantasy literature. Mal Peet’s witty observation on the fickle world of book publishing and our modern-day obsession with the trappings of material success is a refreshing and hilarious read.
It’s the tale of hapless author Philip Murdstone, who writes beautiful, critically-acclaimed books about autistic children. Struggling to make ends meet in the depths of rural Devon, he’s an easy target when his ambitious agent Minerva bullies and seduces him into agreeing to write a Tolkien-style epic, complete with swords and sorcery. He finds himself entering into a Faustian-style pact, which allows him to rattle out what turns out to be an international fantasy blockbuster.
But the million-pound advance for the second volume in The Murdstone Trilogy brings little joy, just a mounting feeling of panic, as events spiral out of control. An absolute triumph.
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