I like to read children’s books, especially ones that are fantasy based. As a friend of mine put it once, “I have a thing for Portal fantasy”. And this is exactly that!
With a dash of other-world-fantasy too.
The Doomspell Trilogy has very clear influences coming from Tolkien and C S Lewis, with elements such as witches who love winter, animals that can talk, and children’s innocence being very prominent in the stories. The trilogy follows Rachel and Eric, siblings who are among the first of a new race of humans who can control magic. The main villains of the series are witches – beings coming from another planet who can control magic, beings who can change their shape and fly and control the elements and certain animals. Each book in the trilogy takes on a different witch, or race of witches, at a time. From a singular witch, to an entire planet of them, to the witches’ ex-slaves who have now risen up, Rachel and Eric are subject to battle after battle against forces that two pre-teens really shouldn’t be able to battle. But they do.
What I really want to discuss about this series, however, isn’t the plot or the characters, but its themes, which are very prevalent once you look a little deeper into the novels.
Theme One: Innocence
In this universe, adults cannot use magic, but anybody under a certain age (let’s assume 16, for the sake of argument) can. By the third book, magic is a widespread phenomenon across the world, with every single child and young teenager being able to use magic. Adults are left behind, sometimes terrorized in certain parts of the world. Children have free reign, flying everywhere, stealing whatever they want, and doing whatever they please. The world has changed and the kids are in control. But once they start to become adults, it’s over for them, and they lose their magic. Why? What could possibly lead to this?
If you read the header above, then you definitely can see that I think it’s because of innocence. Now whether this be innocence in the term of sex, or maybe cynicism, or maybe even just people starting to become more aware of the world around them. The fact is that children start to lose their powers once they become ‘young adults’, and suddenly they’re no longer allowed into this world that they used to inhabit and enjoy. I think that McNish here is trying to show how magical innocence is, with the magic that they use being pure and wonderful. While there are magical users who are evil (see: witches), their magic is significantly rougher and more dangerous; it is a different brand of magic. The wizards, who control magic that is much stronger and brighter than the children do, can be seen as adults who have retained their innocence and faith in the world, and never became jaded; they are the best magic users because they never let themselves become hardened by the world.
Theme Two: Diversity and Tolerance
There are a group of children within the series who cannot use magic. They have abnormally large ears, do not speak much, and have to be carried around by a faithful magic user at all times if they want to go anywhere. These children can be seen as a reference, name and all, to children on the autism spectrum, who are seen as not being as 100% capable as their peers (although this is definitely not a hard truth). There is also an element of preaching tolerance in the trilogy, which I actually go into with my friend Mark in the videos below!
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to anybody who wants to read something not-so-well-known and good. It does have it’s brilliant moments, and it also does fit in with what people who look for fantasy like. It’s a light, summer read that you can swallow in a week, and it’s also one of the only books I know of where magic is treated in a different way than in other literary universes, which can be a breath of fresh air!
Final rating: 3/5. It is for children after all, so the writing style isn’t the best. But it is a good read for the summer!