It is always good to see new ventures in publishing. Algana is a relative newcomer in the field and is still feeling its way. It was initially set up to publish academic books, particularly in mathematics. It has produced a children’s book but this is the first attempt at fiction. It is a pity that they didn’t look at mainstream novels before they embarked the publication of this book to get an idea of basic layout. Other than the lack of a half-title page, the whole thing is disconcertedly printed double-spaced. There has been no thought given to the marketing of this book neither. The text bears all the hallmarks of YA but the blurb does not play to this.
‘The Lake Of Destiny’ is a fantasy novel which claims to be set in medieval England. It may have familiar names such as Oxford but the landscape in unrecognisable. There are also elements in the plot that don’t quite ring true. Laura is eighteen. She has been brought up by nuns who allow her to ride out without an escort and practise sword-fighting. Somehow, these don’t sound like the activities that members of a religious order would approve of. Surely, they would either be training her to take vows or make a good marriage. Nevertheless, a strange nun arrives and sends Laura off to find a magical object called the Orb of Power to stop demons getting it. So she sets off, without a chaperone into dangerous country. Meanwhile, Ciaran, a young sorcerer, stupidly calls up a demon which possesses him. The demon intends to use Ciaran to get hold of the Orb. Naturally, these two are destined to meet. They team up to find the Orb.
This part of the novel is soon over and the two return to the convent seeking permission to marry. This is denied unless Ciaran can retrieve a holy relic from the Bishop of St Albans who has stolen it.
The plotline is simple, without the complexities that would be found in an adult novel. The naivety of the writing style suggests that this might appeal to children in an older age group, such as early teens. These readers would probably forgive the lack of sophistication and enjoy the rapid pace of the action.
There is another big issue that requires discussion. Ciaran is a sorcerer. He casts spells and these are scattered throughout the text as verse. While a prophecy in rhyme is almost traditional, spells can be dangerous route to take. Firstly, the mystery is taken away when spoken in English and leaves the reader the opportunity to try them for themselves. The obvious argument that this is okay is that that the human reader has no magical powers that can be tapped into and so they will not work. Is it fair to have our delusions shattered in this way?
While I wish the author and the publisher well in their venture, there is work to be done on both sides and decisions as to what kind of book this really is and improvements in the production.
(pub: Algana Publishing, London, 2011. 381 page enlarged paperback. Price: £7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-907934-02-5. Ebook: £ 3.99 (UK))