Fictional characters come to life—both literally and figuratively—in New Zealand writer Parry’s bookish debut.
Rob Sutherland’s younger brother, Charley, wakes him in the middle of the night with a panicked phone call. “Uriah Heep’s loose on the ninth floor...and I can’t catch him.” Fans of Charles Dickens will know Uriah Heep as the scheming villain from David Copperfield, and that is, in fact, the same Uriah Heep Charley is worried about. Besides being a wunderkind who blazed through a Ph.D. at Oxford as a teenager, Charley is a “summoner”: He is able to make storybook characters appear in the real world, reading them out and then back into the pages of their books. His tendency to produce characters, from the kindly Sherlock Holmes to the more devious Heep, has caused stress for his family as they try to keep his talent a secret. Rob is also struggling with feelings of resentment toward his genius, magical brother, who has always made him feel painfully average and ordinary by comparison. Then, when the brothers find a magically hidden Victorian-era street, they meet Millie Radcliffe-Dix—the protagonist of a girl-detective adventure series sort of like Nancy Drew crossed with Indiana Jones—and a whole host of other characters who’ve been living there in secret. It seems that Charley’s strange gift is not unique, and somewhere out there is another summoner who has a malicious interest in Charley. Many have tried and some have succeeded in writing mashups with famed literary characters, but Parry knocks it out of the park. She plays with the canon without trying to imitate it, all the while spinning a truly heartfelt story about the strained but powerful love between Rob and Charley. An appreciation for Dickens and a passing knowledge of literary theory will provide extra enjoyment, but a lack thereof is no excuse to miss this page-turning fantasy.
Just plain wonderful.