The Three Worlds

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Monster Realm. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Three Worlds was written by Nara Duffie and first published in 2016. It is a fantasy novel which focuses on three girls on a mission to stop a war between monsters and humans. The book forms the second part of The Monster Realm series and is preceded by The Monster Realm (2015).

Although Lillian, Katy and Maisy barely escaped Lanodeka with their lives, all three of them soon find themselves wishing that they never left. Lillian feels guilty for leaving Bluebell behind, wishing that she’d done more to convince her sister to return for them, and all of the girls worry about if their monster friends can possibly survive the coming war.

Yet they soon find themselves returning to Lanodeka as Lillian is kidnapped by an elf known as the Captain, who delivers her to an ominous black tower. It is from here that Bluebell – now going by the name Lysandra – is planning on retaking the human world for the monsters. Yet Lillian soon learns that her sister is not the true mastermind behind the army. Lysandra answers to Arachne – a powerful monster who is half human and half spider.

Arachne needs both medallions and the Creation Stone to open a portal to Earth big enough for her army to march through, and so Lillian is glad that her medallion is still safely with her friends. However, problems arise as Katy and Maisy use its power to return to Lanodeka in search of Lillian. As Arachne learns of its location, she sends the Captain and other monsters to reclaim it, sparking a fierce war. It’s up to Lillian and her friends to stop her before she can reclaim the medallion and unleash her monsters on the human realm…

In case you didn’t read my review of The Monster Realm, I just want to reiterate here just how talented Duffie is. The Three Worlds was completed shortly before her twelfth birthday, yet you wouldn’t think this at all from the quality of the prose. The series so far has been well edited and feels very polished on the whole. Writing two novels like this at such a young age is a massive achievement and speaks volumes for Duffie’s skill as a writer. I’m in no doubt that she’ll go far in the future.

If you enjoyed the first book, chances are that you’ll get a lot out of this one too. Despite being close to four hundred pages long, the story is fast paced and very easy to read. The simple dialogue and bestiary of colourful monsters will certainly appeal to middle grade readers. The early chapters also do a good job of recounting the events of the first novel, quickly bringing newcomers up to speed by explaining what Lanodeka is and how the medallions and Creation Stone function.

I personally felt that the focus of the adventure was a lot clearer this time around. Lillian’s kidnapping gave motivation to the characters that were trying to rescue her, and the introduction of the sinister Arachne gave the tale a clear villain. It also added a sense of urgency to the story as I was never in any doubt that it would be disastrous if this monster gained the ability to travel to Earth.

The story also still reads as a love letter to stop-motion Ray Harryhausen movies, which is something that I also found very appealing. It’s very clear in the tone of the story, and the way in which the monsters move, that Duffie took a lot of inspiration from the likes of The Clash of the Titans. This is especially clear in the novel’s very dramatic climax in which the largest and most impressive monsters are sent into combat. As with last time, the creatures that are presented in the story all have Duffie’s own unique twist to them – such as the skeletal elves and sloth-like wood nymphs – which was quite refreshing to read. I also rather loved the scenes set in the library, which further expanded on the mythology of Lanodeka as it showed that the true stories behind a lot of famous myths – such as the Twelve Labours of Heracles – didn’t quite play out the way that you might think.

Most of the problems that I did have with The Three Worlds are also issues that I levelled with its prequel. The focus of the novel feels as though it really should be fixed on Lillian, however this is not the case. Chapters often flitted rapidly between an enormous cast of characters, which could be disorientating during the action scenes. While I didn’t find this to be quite as offensive as in the first novel, it did sometimes detract from the action as it took me a few paragraphs to remind myself about who the narrative was following and where they were.

I also felt that this omniscient narrative also meant that not enough time was spent in the black tower. Very little of the first novel was spent focusing on the relationship between Lillian and Lysandra, and this is something that could have been rectified this time around. However, once again, the focus didn’t seem to ever stay with Lillian for long enough for me to get a good feel for her character. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the major twist of her plot line – the identity of Will – wasn’t really concealed enough to be effective.

As with the previous book, Lillian was probably the least memorable of the characters. This was a bit of a pity, as she really should be the focal point of the story. Her desire to find her sister was a driving force in the first book, but it’s her friends that steal the show once again. A lot of the action takes place in the woods, as Katy and Maisy fight their way to their friend. While these character are a lot more active and interesting than Lillian, this focus causes the novel to lose its emotional impact as it moves the action away from Lillian, Lysandra and Arachne.

It also leads to my biggest issue with the story – Maisy. This is in part down to personal taste, as Maisy has always been one of those characters who readers will love or hate. Unfortunately, in this book I felt that she went a bit too far. Everything is a joke to Maisy, even at times when it really shouldn’t be. She puts her loved ones in danger more than once, simply because she refuses to shut up. She even indirectly causes most of the deaths in the story, purely because her animosity towards Theron the Griffin causes her to ignore his instructions to take the medallion out of Lanodeka. While she entertained me in the previous story, this time she unfortunately really grated my nerves.

I also felt that the cast of the story was perhaps a little too large this time around. There are now a lot of named characters in the story and it was difficult to keep tabs on who was where, or even sometimes which characters were still alive. It also meant that not all of the characters could receive the development that they deserved. The Captain’s quest to find a new home for his people just trailed off after a while, and I never understood why Mavrosa betrayed her people.

Anyhow, I think I’ve probably said enough. Despite my gripes, The Three Worlds is still a really fun read and I’m sure that pre-teen fantasy fans will love it. It’s clear that Duffie is an immensely talented writer, and I look forward to see if she publishes any more instalments to this series in the future.

The Three Worlds can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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