The Garden At The Roof Of The World by W.B.J. William (book review).

The Garden At The Roof Of The World’ by W.B.J. Williams is an ambitious debut. Presented as a found manuscript, the epic tale of three young women sweeps continents, stirring up myth and legend.


Gwenaella, Adelie and ‘Elise join on a quest to save the oldest unicorn. They must journey to the garden at the roof of the world to find a particular fruit. No one knows where the garden is, however, or if it still exists. So begins a classic quest beset with trials and challenges, many of which are personal. Gwenaella accepts the quest in payment for the life of her brother. Adelie dreams of journeying with a unicorn and ‘Elise seeks to prove her virtue. They are joined along the road by several other characters, each with their own purpose. They fight mythical beasts, possession by demons, capture, the machinations of men and themselves. The three women also take a personal journey, where they each attempt to define their own fate.

The Garden At The Roof Of The World’ is delightfully easy to read. The story has a fairy tale quality, but quickly disabuses the reader of any notion the happy ever after will be easily won. It is not a children’s book. The torments of the demons are very adult in nature. Many of the battles and trials are bloody. Not everyone survives.

The format, that of found manuscript, allows the author to add footnotes and commentary, much of which was interesting and useful. Some felt a little unnecessary, but the passion and dedication of this fictitious translator can be forgiven as the story must have seemed remarkable. The book echoes much of our own history and legend, making the inclusion of myth almost plausible. An Appendix at the end offers another translation, that of myth into story — how some men might be viewed as giants and creatures such as unicorns and griffins were found in medieval bestiaries. It’s an interesting premise.

While I found the interwoven stories fascinating, the book did wear me out at times. So much happens and often in such a short period of time. There are too many references and too many points of view. Some of the ‘voices’ started to take on a sameness as each character agonised over similar quandaries. I would have been just as happy to follow the original three women on a lesser journey. Gwenaella in particular suffers neglect after the first half of the novel. So much time is spent engaging the reader in her story at the beginning, I felt she should have remained central to the novel.

The constant reminder of the women’s need to be seen as chaste also irked. These women travelled half the world and fought gruesome battles. In their situation, chastity would have been the least of my worries. But, I live in a different world, one where unicorns and griffins live only in books.

Recommended for fans of fairy tales and mythology and anyone who enjoys an epic quest with all the inherent twists and turns.

Kelly Jensen

August 2013

(pub: Dragonwell Publishing. 384 page enlarged paperback. Price: $16.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-94007-600-3. Ebook: Price: $6.95 (from publisher’s website))

check out websites: http://publishing.dragonwell.org and www.wbj-williams.net/The_World_and_Backstories_of_WBJWilliams/Welcome.html

Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Cat herder.

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