The Bloodstone Bird is the story of Sash, a boy who is bullied at his new school for his "girlie" name and his loner attitude, and of Verity, a popular and rich kid who decides to join Sash in his adventure, despite Sash's efforts to be left alone. It all begins when Sash enters his dad's studio, a room that's always been forbidden to him. His father is a taxidermists, and their house is packed with all sorts of stuffed animals, especially birds. But aside from his every day job, Sash's father often goes on expeditions to exotic places, allegedly to find rare species of animals to study. He's a loving father but he's too wrapped up in his researches to notice Sash's socialising problems in school. One day, after one of their arguments, Sash decides to brake the rules and opens the door to his father's studio.
In there he finds an old trunk, a map and a riddle. All the ingredients to begin all good adventures, aren't they?
On London's north-south river, long forgottenWhat river? which suns? what world? and more importantly, what bird of flames?
When earth and suns align, with moon betwixt
Until again the moon's dark intervention:
Hidden from the world a doorway opens
here you'll find the bird of flames descending from the sun
it heals all hurts and friendship binds with song
Sash starts researching immediately, and in the process he somehow finds himself working with his school enemy Verity, who is determined to find the bird, no matter what.
Sash is skeptical but Verity seems to believe in the riddle with all her heart. Is the bird of flames just a legend or is there really an animal capable of bringing harmony to whoever finds it?
This was an engaging read that kept me interested all the way through. Inbali Iserles is the author of The Tygrine Cat, and like in her first novel, which I reviewed and raved about last year, her writing is smooth and it flows so easily that it makes her books really fast and gripping reads. She uses a traditional literary topos for fantastic fiction, the portal into a parallel world, but it still feels exciting and new. The idea of an underground river still running beneath London (which it is, by the way) is fascinating per se, but adding a magic portal to another world is beyond cool.
I liked the parallel world. A tropical paradise with a past of peace and harmony and a present of oppression and terror. Sash and Verity, in their search for the bird, become entangled in this world's destiny, and in doing so, they will also have to deal with their own personal problems.
I have to say I never came to like Verity, while I sympathised with Sash more. But instead of identifying with one character, I just enjoyed the adventure in its own, the solving of the mystery, the action, the dangers in the magic world.
I'm really looking forward to anything Inbali Iserles is going to write.