Vivid memories of the effect this book had on me when my teacher Mrs Leish read this to us in grade four – and finding the edition I had then, a photo-realist painting of Ellen wearing the silver crown itself, her blue eyes unblinking as she enters into a trance – made me dare to read it again.
Let’s face it, going back to your taste in grade four often is a big no-no.
I choreographed a dance to “angel in the centrefold” around that time. I studied ballet in the sense it was compulsory at my genteel school and I hated and sucked at it, the fat myopic girl in the back row.
I loved Mighty Isis. Need I go on?
So expected this book to pall but couldn’t resist the seduction of the excitement I felt as each installment was read, standing behind Mrs Leish and massaging her shoulders (a favored task we all vied for, despite her dandruff).
It’s still pacy and brutal, with kind adults that turn up at the right time to balance the horrible assassins and hunters that are trying to capture the children and the crown. I can now clearly finger Robert C. O’Brien and Russell Hoban as the architects of my love of arcana, a gnostic sense of the universe as likely to fuck you at any time (thanks, Demi-urge), and the seductive power of the quest, particularly with lots of detail about survival skills and self-sufficient children. OK, My Side of the Mountain might have to take the blame as well.
Still, the invocation of secret, evil knowledge, crazy self-aware machines made by monks invoking ‘Hieronymus’, mind-controlling stones etc is gibberish, pure and simple. Appealingly simple for ten-year-olds, who even then if I remember rightly, let the lameness slide a bit. Learning how to “deadfall” trap squirrels, throw knives and beat the bad guys will compensate for almost any McGuffin.