By Salman Rushdie
Published by Jonathan Cape
ISBN 978 0 224 06162 9
Twenty years ago, the highly respected adult novelist Salman Rushdie wrote Haroun and the Sea of Stories for his young son. It was a magical fantasy set in a colourfully imagined Arabian Nights-type world, and put Rushdie into the select group of writers who can successfully create stories for young people as well as adults.
We have had to wait quite a while for the formidable Rushdie to give us a new novel for young readers, and once again he has delivered a magical fantasy for one of his offspring; now it's the turn of the author's second son to get his own novel. Fiction echoes fact as we meet the protagonist: just like Rushdie's own youngster, 12-year-old Luka in Luka and the Fire of Life is the child of his father's middle age.
Young Luka's father, the city's greatest storyteller, has suddenly fallen into a mysterious coma, and nothing or no one can bring him back to life. Luka has no option but to travel into the Magical World and steal the powerful Fire of Life that will bring his father out of his endless sleep. Luka and the Fire of Life is another quest through a fantasy land, but this is a fantasy land created by one of the greatest novelists of our time. Only readers of Haroun and the Sea of Stories will have been there before, and they will be very keen to return even 20 years later.
Luka is accompanied on his journey by Dog the bear and the faithful Bear the dog. En route to seize the life-giving flame, Luka is helped and hindered by a fascinating cast of fantasy characters. He meets the elephant-headed Memory Birds, rides on a magic carpet provided by the glorious Insultana of Ott, and has to deal with a fearsome shape-shifting dragon. Luka is a brave and interesting hero whose personality is never swamped by the fantasy around him.
Luka and the Fire of Life is not a book to be rushed, as Rushdie's imagination and beautiful use of language deliver colour and wonders on every page. The novel is packed with amazing creatures and wonderful adventure, and its pace and imagery will resonate with teenage lovers of video games.
The villain of the piece, the holograph Nobodaddy, who is intent in sucking life from Luka's sleeping father, is a creation straight from a video game. There are sections of the book when the action mirrors a modern quest video game as Luka stores up extra bonuses to move onto the next level of his adventure.
Luka and the Fire of Life is a rare and magical read that will intrigue and entertain readers of all ages. Even those who are tired of accompanying questing teens through imaginary lands will be charmed by Rushdie and Luka on many levels. Marvel, and enjoy.