Book Review: Crossing Over / Author: Anna Kendall / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: June 24th
In fantasy novels, young boys with mysterious powers are ten-a-penny, it seems. Anna Kendall’s Crossing Over also comes equipped with a teenage boy with an unusual ability; he has a supernatural talent that allows him to journey to the land of the dead. The main protagonist, a rather unfortunate chap called Roger, is a rather miserable creature. Not only is he an orphan left in the care of an abusive family, he’s a massive coward and more than a bit of a fool. Disaster inevitably strikes and our hero runs from misfortune to misfortune, all the while moaning about his plight and regretting his existence.
In a way, Crossing Over is a sort of beginner’s version of a Robin Hobb novel; strange magic powers, a hostile world and a main character who whines constantly, but in a way that keeps the reader’s sympathy. However, unlike Hobb’s work, Kendall has a looser grip on her world, and many of the situations the hero of Crossing Over encounters seem overly contrived and slightly jarring; our hero has no control of the world around him, and is more of a victim of circumstance than the main character in a novel. They are unreliable narrators, and there are damn near treacherous ones. Roger certainly falls into the latter category, and this does lend the book some character.
What saves Crossing Over from mediocrity however, are a number of rather lovely twists. Though not entirely unexpected, they are wonderfully dark and inspired, and keep the reader on their toes all the way to the end. Be warned that this is the first part of a trilogy (like most fantasy novels), and the conclusion is written with this in mind, which is a pity as it could really do with being self-contained and a little bit longer.