The Hidden Kingdom
by Ian Beck (Author)
Ian Beck began his career as an illustrator, he was notably involved with producing the cover art for Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, and has published over 60 books for children. His latest offering is a sword and prophesy fantasy utilising typical generic tropes: ancient evil threatening to erupt through the fissures separating our world from Hades, and the hidden kingdom of watchers waiting to ensure that the proper hero inherit his magic sword and helmet to battle the evil Emissary.
There’s a selfish and effete prince (who doesn’t believe in the prophesies), his laconic, tough minder/ helper, and ultimately, the triumph of love and positivity over hatred and negativity.
Beck rises above the purely derivative with prose that is, at times, lyrical, and a sense of oriental otherness adds an interesting twist to what could be a confusing mixture of strands from Greek, Anglo-Saxon and Oriental tradition and mythology.
In a subversion of generic conventions, the hidden watcher entrusted with the safety of Prince Osamu is his nurse’s uncouth daughter, Lissa. She slays prey and enemies with equal detachment (much to the refined Osamu’s dismay), finds shelter and aims to get sword and helmet back into the Prince’s possession safely. Central to the story is potter’s apprentice, Baku, a sacrificial figure whose death, and the demise of many on the battlefield, is described in visceral, unflinching detail.
The book is pitched at readers of 11 upwards, but the romantic element and the graphic descriptions of death and grotesquery may push the recommended age upwards.
This review was published online in