Oksa Pollock: The Forest of Lost Souls
By Anne Plichota & Cendrine Wolf
Published by Pushkin Children's Books
ISBN 978 1 78269 033 7
Following the massive success of a certain wizard called Harry Potter, many Potter wannabes have popped up in the world of youth fiction; but few of them have been female and even fewer have come from France. And not many of them have enjoyed the success in Europe that Oksa Pollock is currently enjoying.
In her first high-octane adventure, The Last Hope, teenager Oksa discovered that she had magical powers, and that her family were refugees from a parallel world called Edefia. The Pollocks and other refugees needed desperately to get back there, and Oksa's new-found powers were their last hope.
All this added up to an original and compelling debut adventure; now in The Forest of Lost Souls, the journey to Edefia continues. Oksa has recently made some amazing discoveries about her family, not least that she is the rightful queen of Edefia. But there are enemies in both worlds who will do anything to stop Oksa taking up her birthright.
Oksa is looking forward to the long holidays, but on the last day of term, Gus, her best friend vanishes. Oksa searches the school without success. Knowing how her enemies work, she suspects that Gus has been Impictured - sucked into the gigantic painting of a dark forest in one of the classrooms.
Oksa gathers a small group of refugee Edefians and together they enter the magic painting to search for Gus. This opening plot device may seem a bit contrived in a rushed attempt to get the adventure underway, but Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf are so imaginative that any weakness is soon forgotten.
The Forest of Lost Souls is a jungle of terrifying creatures and threats, plants that can talk and a desert that smells of rotten eggs. The authors throw everything they have into this setting, and just stop short of overkill.
The Forest of Lost Souls is a real page-turner that will please existing fans and attract many new ones. The story gets complex but not complicated, the relationships between characters develop nicely, and Oksa's world continues to intrigue.
Wolf and Plichota's imaginative narrative is a welcome addition to magical, fantasy fiction for the post-Potter generation.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com