Hyddenworld Spring (book, William Horwood, 2009)
From SFX 192.
William Horwood/Pan Macmillan/502 pages/£16.99 HB
Magical Chaos threatens the world, and both little folk’s and humans’ worlds need a protector. The hunt is on.
You might know Horwood from his Duncton Wood books, about a civilisation of moles living under our very feet. Unlike Richard Adam’s Watership Down, whose rabbits do nothing that might give away their rich internal lives to human observers, Horwood’s moles could write, pushing the story a little deeper into the realms of the fantastical. Hyddenworld follows the same theme of secret realities hidden from our eyes, but takes it further. Here ‘Little People’ are real, as is magic, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the two worlds of Hydden and Human are about to cross paths.
Hyddenworld is a plot Alan Garner could have conceived of, with teen leads straddling the divide between the magical and mundane worlds, the story enriched by a kind of Anglo-Saxon folksiness. But Garner could not have written this. Whereas Garner sets his characters against a backdrop of ironclad realism, Horwood is less successful, delivering more of a ‘What if?’ than the more powerful ‘This just might be’ sort of story. Garner is also a master of brevity, Horwood is not, and the books infodump habit irritates. Each incident is massively prefigured (and sadly disfigured) with almost exhaustive pre-emptory detail. If there were a standard for telling and not showing, this book would be a good exemplar. Horwood’s characters and the reader are dancing to his tune, there’s no sense of discovery or adventure for either, rendering Hyddenworld an unmagical, rail-guided ride.
Perhaps there are readers who like having every last detail explained to them, if so, they’ll enjoy Hyddenworld, because struggling under the ropy coils of extraneous verbiage a good tale lies tied in knots. Sadly, I found it nigh on unreadable.
Did you know?
William Horwood has written a number of sequels to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.