review; The Book of Lost Things

Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Pub. Date: January, 2006
Summary: High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Genre: Fantasy

Everything about this book was perfect. Love, love, love. Easily one of my top reads of the year. & to think it’s been on my to read list for ages! I’m so glad I finally hunkered down and gave it a shot.

Once upon a time – for that is how all stories should begin – there was a boy who lost his mother.

The Book of Lost Things takes place in war-torn England. German planes have destroyed a large portion of cities, but the threat of bombs means little to David: his mother is dying. She gets progressively sicker and sicker until one day when David is excused from class for the day. He immediately knew the reason for his early dismissal and blames himself for not being able to save his mother.

Life continues for David and his father and a few months later David is introduced to Rose, his father’s new girlfriend (ultimately, wife). They move to the country – the country is safer than the city his father claims – into a large old house that Rose’s family owns.

Rose’s presence in David’s life only serves to remind him of the realization that his mother is gone and he hates her for it. The arrival of David’s half-brother Georgie only solidifies that hatred and he turns to his books for comfort.

Stories wanted to be read, David’s mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.

I loved that this book didn’t take long at all to get right to the story. One of my biggest peeves is when a book is unbelievably slow, only to finally get to the action two chapters from the end of the book.

The Book of Lost Things wasn’t like that one bit. As much as I enjoyed reading about David’s homelife – particularly his interactions with his stepmother, Rose – I couldn’t contain my excitement when the story delved into the “fairy tale” world. A few times I’ve talked about how fairy tales and retellings are very much in vogue right now and I loooove that. Matt & I are huge fans of Once Upon a Time and in the show, Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is a main character. He’s by far our favorite in the show and we always go into fangirl mode during his scenes. This book was no different.

And the Crooked Man heard her dreams, because that was where he wandered. His place was the land of the imagination, the world where stories began. The stories were always looking for a way to be told, to be brought to life through books and reading. That was how they crossed over from their world into ours. But with them came the Crooked Man, prowling between his world and ours, looking for stories of his own to create, hunting for children who dreamed bad dreams, who were jealous and angry and proud. And he made kings and queens of them, cursing them with a kind of power, even if the real power lay always in his hands. And in return they betrayed the objects of their jealousy to him, and he took them into his lair deep beneath the castle…

♥ Oh, Rumpelstiltskin. I eagerly anticipated any scene the Crooked Man was in. So, so fantastic. A bit of a confession: during his scenes, I always pictured the Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time. Robert Carlyle does an incredible job with that role and imagining him as the Crooked Man only made the story that much more creepy and fantastic.

David touched his fingers to the wood, pressing and knocking hoping to find some way of reopening the portal back to his old life, but nothing happened. He almost cried, but he knew that if he began crying, all would be lost. He would just be a small boy, powerless and afraid, far from home.

After a German bomber crashes into his yard, David discovers himself in another world. There are a number of magical and mythical beasts he encounters along the way (trolls, harpies, the seven dwarves), the worst of which were the Loups: human/wolf hybrids. The pack is out to gain control of the kingdom and sees this strange little boy as both a threat and food.

The Woodsman was one of my favorite characters. :) He was such a lovely man and aided David on his quest to the castle after telling him that the king has a book that could potentially help David return to England.

“You mean…they killed her?” asked David. “They ate her,” said Brother Number One. “With porridge. That’s what ‘ran away and was never seen again’ means in these parts. It means ‘eaten.'” “Um, and what about ‘happily ever after?'” asked David, a little uncertainly. “What does that mean?” “Eaten quickly,” said Brother Number One.

You won’t find a Doc or Dopey here. Instead, the dwarves are numbered and for the brief scene they’re in, they definitely made quite an impression. It turns out Snow White is a horrid, horrid girl and the dwarves felt oppressed. It’s only natural they would seek revenge… :)

They walked like prisoners who had just been told that the executioner had a little extra time on his hands and could fit in a few more beheadings before he went home for his tea.

The Book of Lost Things had the whole package: great characters, wonderful storytelling, and absolutely beautiful language. The imagery was remarkable and there were so many passages that were simply a pleasure to read.

“I have walked through your dreams,” he said. “I know everything that you think, everything that you feel, everything that you fear.”

Apart from being an awesome villain, the Crooked Man is downright intriguing. He did and said things that made me think one way, then on the next page he did something that made me feel completely the opposite. I could read an entire book solely about him and would love every minute of it.

It wasn’t like this in the stories. Soldiers and knights slew dragons and monsters. They weren’t afraid, and they didn’t run away from the threat of death.

I loved watching David grow throughout the story. In the beginning he was a lost little boy mourning the loss of his mother, and by the end of the book he’s a young man. I’ve read books where the growing up seems forced and winds up being unbelievable, but that wasn’t the case here.

There were so many wonderful things about this book. The twist-that-wasn’t-really-a-twist, the supporting characters, the setting, everything about The Book of Lost Things was fantastic. Definitely one of my favorite books I’ve read this year!

5 thoughts on “review; The Book of Lost Things

  1. I just got your comment about loving this book and you make it sound so fantastic! I’m always a sucker for fairy tales and hearing they’re going to delve into a “fairy tale” world makes me super excited. Wonderful review!

    • ♥ Thank you so much! I’ve been on a huge fairy tale kick lately, so I’m sure that had something to do with my love for this book, but it was seriously awesome (& the Crooked Man is so horrible and creepy and amazing!!)

      Normally I can review a book and be done with it, but then a book comes around where I need to ramble on and on about it and that’s definitely the case here. :) I really hope you enjoy it!

  2. This one got five stars from me as well. I’m surprised more people haven’t read it, given the popularity of TV shows like Once Upon A Time and the whole fairytale retelling genre.

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