‘…Your future had obviously been set in stone long before you fell through the Manor doors. It was as if you were destined to be held accountable for the Night of All Catastrophes.’
(The Cradle Of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan. P80.)
Fourteen years ago Jane Doe and her father arrived in Bluehaven on the steps of the Manor – the entrance to a labyrinth which connects many worlds. On the same night, the earthquakes started. Bluehaven has been torn apart and Jane and her father have been despised ever since.
When Jane’s life is endangered, the strongest quake ever hits and the Manor is reopened. Adventurer Winifred Robin takes Jane to the entrance to the labyrinth and tells her to run. There is only one problem – once Jane is in the labyrinth there is no guarantee she will get out. Doors to Otherworlds aren’t wide open and the labyrinth has been colonised by a terrible villain and his army. Jane’s quest begins – she must learn about her past, find her father and save all the worlds.
You need to read this book.
Sometimes a book comes along and you think ‘this is going to be something’. I felt that way when I read Abi Elphinstone’s first novel and I feel this way now. Every part of the adventure kept me hooked and the worldbuilding is stunning.
Did you ever read The Magician’s Nephew? In this old classic the children jump into new worlds through pools of water. The worlds are connected by The Wood Between The Worlds – one of the most memorable yet underexplored settings in fantasy. The Labyrinth in The Cradle Of All Worlds is a similar place – it connects multiple worlds – yet Lachlan has understood its potential as a setting in its own right. Making the doors to the Otherworlds difficult to access turned this setting into something extraordinary. Potentially it is a gateway to anywhere but it is also a trap. Throughout the novel we want to know where Jane will end up. How.
There is a trio of main characters, as in many stories, but the relationships between these characters are not the easily-made friendships which are more usual in children’s fantasy. It is common for a little friction to lead to a deep and trusting bond. Jeremy Lachlan’s characters? There’s friction until the very last page and it works. While friendships are wonderful, I found these frenemies fascinating. We don’t always get along with people in life but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together. I always wondered how this would play out in a saving-the-universe situation.
There is a hint at future F/F romance between two of the lead characters. Yep, a hint. Not explored. Not analysed. Set-up like any romance in any trilogy. It is glorious. I’m rooting for them all the way.
Fantasy villains run the risk of becoming pantomime characters, popping up at random and not really scaring anyone. Roth isn’t like that. He has powers to rival a hundred dementors, powers which hold his villains in a psychological prison. People sense him before they see him. A burn in the throat. An itch on the skin. Bile. The scent of rancid meat. He conceals his real face behind a shiny white mask. If you want a villain who genuinely sends a shiver down your spine, this is the book for you.
When we learn about the creation of this world – no spoilers – it is one of the most compelling creation myths ever written. The past is integral to the future of this story, from the story of creation to the books written by people who have adventured through the Labyrinth and into Otherworlds.
The Jane Doe Chronicles is a masterpiece. An original word, a compelling adventure and a creation story to blow your mind. Prepare to read into the night.