Speculating on SpecFic

Fantastic Literature: From epic fantasy to fairytales to myth-making

Awakening  - William Horwood Awakening begins immediately where Hyddenworld left off, with Jack and Katherine expecting their first child, the long-awaited Shield Maiden. Her birth will also herald the beginning of another great adventure: our beloved characters must race to find the mystical gems representing the Seasons to stave off the end of all that we know.Much like the first book, Awakening is at times thrilling, or romantic, or action-packed, but at other times tedious and mind-numbingly boring. The action is centred on Brum - while Jack and Katherine's face a rude awakening into parenthood and have difficulties raising the Shield Maiden, our favourite characters in Brum find the lost gemstone of Spring and are now tasked with protecting it. Bedwyn Stort, Masters Pike and Brief, Barklice and Feld are all back, and having the gem of Spring in possession, now turn their sights to the gemstone of Summer.The reader is always kept at a distance from the characters, which makes it very difficult for one to make a connection with the cast. I knew Jack and Katherine struggled, raising a child as mysterious and abnormal as Judith, I know Judith was very unhappy throughout the book, and I know that the hydden worked with desperation to find the gem of Summer, and keep a hold of the Spring stone. But I didn't feel it, my pulse didn't raise and I didn't feel any sympathy. I was just reading, almost clinically, which is always disappointing.But the plot introduces us to new hydden territories, and in particular, the Emperor of the Hyddenworld, who is also seeking the gems. He could have easily been painted as an unfeeling villain, but I liked him almost as much as the rest of the cast, and there really weren't any all good or all evil characters. Just hydden, each one capable of bravery, goodness, pettiness and evil in equal measure. I think this is the best aspect of the book - Horwoord's ability to make me like even the supposed villain of his narrative.I think Katherine was the most compelling character of the book - Katherine, who just wants to live a normal life, who has a daughter that is anything but normal, who suffers from post-natal depression, who has to watch her partner struggle to decide if he wants to be with their family, as a human, or run around rescuing the hydden. I couldn't sympathise with her, I wanted her to leave Jack alone to make his decisions, I think she mothered Judith all wrong. She did the very best that she knew how, however, and it was moving to see two people as broken and Katherine and Jack be parents to their special girl.Again, I have to comment on the delivery of the story. Horwood takes his time with the narrative, taking a winding course over the histories of the places he introduces, being sidetracked by the peculiar habits of fate, or wyrd, and only progressing the action when he is good and ready. Much like a grandfather at his rocking chair, and we, his grand-babies, are forced to endure it whilst shaking our heads endearingly at his style.The Hyddenworld series is perfect for jaded fans of Fantasy who want something absolutely different from their usual affair. It's not a series to be beginning foray into the genre, but connoisseurs will enjoy the refreshing plot and characters. It's also a series for readers with patience, and a lot of it! If you liked Hyddenworld, you will love Awakening.A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.