THE TEMPLES OF MALPLAQUET
One of the Malplaquet Trilogy
Reviewed by Joy
Youth Fantasy, Contemporary England
Jamie Thompsonís thirteenth birthday isnít the ordinary thirteenth birthday. Itís the day Jamie suddenly begins seeing and hearing things that couldnít be there, in the familiar gardens of Malplaquet. Tiny human footprints in the dirt, faint voices when no one is around: these things are seriously weird. Maybe Granny can explain them.
Granny lives on the huge grounds of Malplaquet, a combination school and public park. She isnít really the Granny of Jamie and his brother Charlie, but she takes care of them whenever it will help out their parents. Granny scoots around the gardens on an electric buggy, looking so eccentric that casual park visitors are nervous of her, but Jamie and Charlie find that she keeps life interesting.
Granny and her friend Nigriff believe that Jamie is ready to be told their secret. The six-inch-tall Nigriff is the Senior Imperial Archivist for a race of Lilliputians living in secret in the gardens. There needs to be one chosen human who can watch out for them when Granny gets too old. Ancient prophecy describes Jamie, predicting that he will reunite their four provinces and revive their Great Empire.
It wonít be an easy job. The people of the four provinces dislike each other and have very diverse cultures. Reuniting these people involves change, but there are people who dislike change very much, even the good kind of change. Thirteen year old Jamie will have to learn a lot about dealing with people, especially people six inches tall.
THE TEMPLES OF MALPLAQUET is the stuff childrenís daydreams are made of. In this world they will find themselves on a mission with a band of people small enough to move around like dolls, small enough to enforce decisions on them if they choose. What would they do with this opportunity? Dalton, who teaches ethics to teens and preteens, uses entertainment and suspense to encourage them to consider this question. Young readers can ignore the deeper issues if they choose. They will find the story enticing either way.
Author Andrew Dalton has taken a ready made, fertile setting and brought it up to date. His setting, Malplaquet, was conceived by the respected literary writer T.H. White, and used in a fantasy about Lilliputians on a huge English estate: MISTRESS MASHAMíS REPOSE (1946), in which everything is as realistic as White could make it except the Lilliputians themselves. White built on the famous GULLIVERíS TRAVELS (1726) by Jonathan Swift. This makes Dalton the heir to Swift, once removed.
Swift wrote an ingenious satire whose fantastic races were all invented to make harsh fun of human types. White wrote a bubbling, inventive satire, brimming with good nature. Dalton has written a childrenís adventure, liberally salted with magic to suit todayís taste, winking with frequent, good-humored digs that will be enjoyed by parents as they read to their children. All three ask us to think about human behavior, and maybe give some thought to our own ways of relating to others.
T.H. White was a teacher at Stowe School, on which the Malplaquet grounds were modeled, and Andrew Dalton taught there at one time. Stowe School is established in the former home of the Dukes of Buckingham, with its immense grounds. This genuine history adds richness to the environment. The setting for THE TEMPLES OF MALPLAQUET exists, it has just had some little people and some magic added on to real life.
THE TEMPLES OF MALPLAQUET is planned as a trilogy. The ending sets up the sequel with cliffhangers, to prepare us for Book Two, THE LOST PEOPLE OF MALPLAQUET.
Aug 2005 Review
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