cover image The Stones Are Hatching

The Stones Are Hatching

Geraldine McCaughrean. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.89 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028766-5

The hero's quest provides the foundation for this richly imagined fantasy set in 1919 England. Eleven-year-old Phelim O'Green thinks he is dreaming when he encounters the Domovoy, a magical creature who lives behind his stove. When he realizes he is not dreaming, ""He felt as if his brains had been sewn up and thrown over the wall."" Before long, the Domovoy and a troupe of tiny Neanderthal-like glashans kick him out of his house and send him on his way to conquer the Stoor Worm, a Loch Ness-like monster of gigantic proportions. With WWI raging, artillery fire begins to awaken the sleeping worm and to speed the hatching of the stones nesting in her body, releasing all types of hellacious monsters. McCaughrean (The Pirate's Son) creates an allegory in which archetypal monsters evoke the horrors of war. For instance, the Noonday Twister, a beautiful young girl, breaks the necks of boys and men reaping wheat in the fields, in effect becoming the Grim Reaper herself. Accompanying Phelim and aiding his quest are somewhat comic sidekicks: the mandatory fool (Mad Sweeney, a soldier who fought against Napoleon who hops from tree to tree), a maiden (Alexia, a young woman who lost her shadow and her reflection to the Devil) and a horse (Obby Oss, a bobbing, headless, two-legged thingamajig). While it may be too violent for some, this evocative and sometimes profound fantasy distinguishes itself by way of vivid imagery, compelling action and often Siren-like lyricism. Ages 10-up. (May)